On the Lookout for Kafka in Prague

A man wakes up horrified to discover that he’s been transformed into an enormous insect – a burden to his family, a freak to the civilized world. Sound familiar? Whether you’ve read “The Metamorphosis” or not, you’ve probably been touch by material that’s
referenced this famous work by Franz Kafka. A Czech author whose work tends to lean towards the darkly surrealist, many know of his novels, but not all recognize how omnipresent he is in the nation’s capital where he was born. 

One could spend nearly an entire day taking in the numerous art installations or museums around the city paying homage to Kafka, and it would arguably be a day well spent. Here are just a few suggestions for fans of the Kafka-esque.

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An excellent place to start is the statue of Kafka himself on Vězeňská street. Here, he is
portrayed as a small man riding atop the shoulders of a headless body, a void where the
face should be, pointing aggressively forward. Ironically, a second public installation of
Kafka’s visage is simply a giant reflective rotating head – this one more recent than the
headless depiction. The head, entitled “Metalmorphosis,” is located outside Quadrio
Shopping Center.

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The artist who created the enormous likeness of Prague’s most famous author has quite
the body of work around the city, and each piece could in itself be considered quite
Kafka-esque. If you enjoy his work outside Quadrio, you should consider visiting a few
of this other, slightly weirder pieces. David Cerny has a distinct style that can be mistaken for no one else, but it becomes quickly clear why he is an ideal sculpture artist
to take on the author of “The Trial” and “A Hunger Artist.” Perhaps the easiest to see is
his work on Zizkov TV Tower, which can be viewed from a distance, and is simply a
number of enormous – frankly creepy – faceless babies crawling up the sides of this 216
meter structure.

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He also has an enormous statue done in the same reflective style as his Kafka portrait that shows a pregnant woman kneeling in the middle of a square. One can crawl inside the statue if they so desire, which makes for a rather “unique” photo shoot. The work is
appropriately titled, “In Utero.”

Finally, possibly in recognition of the appropriate similarities in his style and some of Kafka’s, he has another installation just outside the Franz Kafka Museum. It features two men facing off in a peeing battle while standing in a pool shaped like the Czech Republic. After a quick stop to take that in, you should continue on into the museum. Here you can read primary sources, including some of Kafka’s letters, see first edition prints of his books, and take a look through some of his old photos. Located in Mala Strana, this is a great opportunity to see his work as citizens of Prague do.

One exhibit focuses on how his work relates to the city, entitled “Topography.” As described on their website, the museum recognizes that “The way Kafka creates the layers of his city is one of the most enigmatic operations of modern literature,” and finds that in respect to specific areas and landmarks within the city, “even if they are recognized by an inhabitant of Prague or by a student of Kafka, they have since become something else.” The website also offers information on times and ticket prices, but for students you can plan on a reduced price of approximately 6 U.S. Dollars or 5 Euro. The museum is usually open from 10:00 AM till 6 PM, and even offer visitors a map that will aid you in your citywide search for all things Kafka-related – an excellent idea if you find the first few items on this list of interest!

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