Inspired by Kafka, A Trip through Prague.

 “May I kiss you then? On this miserable paper? I might as well open the window and kiss the night air.”-Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka's street near the Old Town Square.
I am frequently inspired by personal expression, whether it arrives in the form of art or interactions between people or with one’s present circumstances. Journals and letters often offer intimate insights into their writer’s inner world, but memoirs, even though crafted with a more linear eye, present public forums where memories and one’s own understanding of the past, present, and future are shared.

Last week, I traveled abroad to Prague, where I was fortunate to immerse myself in the history and culture where the influential Czech writer Franz Kafka once lived, suffered, and created. During my time there, I tucked in at night with his short stories and a brief biography of his time spent in the city. Come morning, I easily envisioned this slight, tortured soul inspired and overwhelmed by the very streets I tread. Introduced to Kafka by one of my favorite Colby College professors David Suchoff, I began to understand the person whose words I’ve so admired.

If you get the chance, take an hour (or a few in my case) and experience the Kafka Museum nestled along the Vtlava River. It truly is an experience. Designed to evoke the often paranoid feelings of Kafka’s Prague in its visitors, as I traveled the halls I grew ever more inspired, sad, and perhaps a little fearful for dear Franz. Emerging into the sunlight, my emotions forced me to reflect on his life and how, postmortem, he changed so many with his honest, yet strangely surreal writings.

Some pre-bed reading.

Upon my return home, I began to read Kafka’s final letter to his father, with whom he maintained an unstable relationship, to say the least. This letter as well as his translated journals, which I’m currently waiting to receive in the mail, were quoted throughout the Czech museum. Even from those scant lines, while in Prague, my perspective began to warp and widen to absorb both his life and my own more clearly.

Often personal memoirs, journals, and letters dredge up my own memories in this way. It’s a form of personal therapy, I suppose, to surface my unconscious past. Here are some examples that have spoken to me. Perhaps they’ll do the same for you:
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Dearest Father by Franz Kafka
For more on Kafka, see David Suchoff's 2012 book: Kafka’s Jewish Languages: The Hidden Openness of Tradition