8 Things to Do on Kafka’s Death Day

Kafka died on June 3, 1924 but his tortured soul lives on in comics, cabarets, rock bands, and more

Julie O'Shea

Written by Julie O'Shea Published on 23.05.2014 10:06:05 (updated on 23.05.2014) Reading time: 4 minutes

WIN:Click here to win 2 tickets to Kafka Band at Divadlo Archa on June 2
WIN:Click here to win 2 tickets to Kafkaberet at the Kafka Society on June 4

It’s been 90 years since Franz Kafka’s passing, and yet here in Prague, he seems eternal; his image and work as synonymous to the Czech lands as William Shakespeare’s are to England. Perhaps this tortured, self-doubting novelist – who died at age 40 from tuberculosis on June 3, 1924 – would have been appalled by all the celebrity and hoopla that eluded him in life. After all, he had requested that his work be destroyed upon his death. But his enterprising literary executor had other ideas, saving Kafka from melting into oblivion. For those who wish to commemorate Prague’s famed son, here are a few things that will put you in a Kafkaesque state of mind.

Find Franz at the Fringe

American playwright JB Alexander images what life would be like if he woke up one morning to discover he’s been transformed into Franz Kafka. The one-man show, aptly titled “The Metamorphosis” (an obvious take on Kafka’s novella by the same name), is on the lineup at this year’s Prague Fringe Festival. “My play is in some ways a mirror image of Kafka’s story,” Alexander says. “His story is about a man who becomes an animal. My play is about an ordinary man who becomes an extraordinary genius. But they are both about solitude and the malleability of identity.” Performances will take place at Kavárna 3+1 from May 23-31. General admission is 150 CZK.

8 Things to Do on Kafka’s Death Day

Check out an original Kafka manuscript

A century after Kafka started writing “The Trial”, the manuscript, which was published unfinished in 1925, is heading back to Prague where it will be on display at Old Town Hall from May 23 to June 30. The work is on loan from the German Literature Archive in Marbach and includes commentary from leading Czech and German writers and artists who were asked about the novel’s relevance in the 21st century. The exhibition is supported by the Goethe-Institut, the Prague Franz Kafka Society, and the City of Prague. Admission is free.

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8 Things to Do on Kafka’s Death Day

Get down to some Kafka sounds

Kafka Band will be giving a special performance on June 2 at Divadlo Archa starting at 8pm. The group, which formed last summer for Kafka’s 130th birthday, includes VJ Clad and Jaroslav Rudiš and Jaromír 99, the artists behind the Alois Nebel comic book trilogy. The stage will be decorated with illustrations from Jaromír 99’s new comic adaptation of Kafka’s “Castle”. Musicians from the groups Umakart, Tata Bojs, Priessnitz, and Lesní zvěř are also set to participate in the concert. Tickets are 290 CZK. www.kafkaband.cz

Follow in Kafka’s footsteps

Ever wonder where Kafka liked to grab his morning cup of coffee or what his favorite corner of Prague was? Starting May 27, the Kafka Society will begin organizing 90-minute walks through Old Town with experienced guides pointing out spots frequented by the novelist. Tours in Czech cost 150 CZK per person. Tours in other language are also offered for 50 CZK more.

8 Things to Do on Kafka’s Death Day

Come to the KafKABARET

KafKABARET, honoring the author’s life and work, will premiere at the Franz Kafka Society on June 2 with English performances scheduled for June 4-12. The marketing materials hint at sexual innuendo and promise appearances by a couple of notable Kafka characters as well as a depressed leopard. Specifically put together to commemorate Kafka’s passing, the show is subtitled “Happy Death-day, Dear Franz”. Something tells us Kafka would have likely been amused by the morbid wording. Maybe.

8 Things to Do on Kafka’s Death Day

See comic book versions of Kafka classics

A trio of Kafka-inspired comic books will be on display at Old Town Hall from May 23 to June 30. “Franz Kafka is a master of images and therefore his work is predestined to be translated into the language of comic-book art,” says David Zane Mairowitz, curator of K: KafKa in KomiKs. “The amount of images Kafka offers us in a single sentence is simply amazing,” Comic art detailing Kafka’s “Trial” and “Castle” will headline the show, as well as a 1992 work by Mairowitz and American cult cartoonist Robert Crumb called “Introducing Kafka”. Admission is free.

8 Things to Do on Kafka’s Death Day

Visit newly renovated bookstore-cafe Řehoř Samsa

Hidden down the Lucerna passageway, lies this delightful bookstore-cafe combo. The recently renovated literary haunt pays homage to one of Kafka’s most horrifying creations – Gregor Samsa, the traveling salesman who finds himself transformed into an insect in “The Metamorphosis”. While the small book selection is mostly limited to Czech titles, there is something fantastically alluring about the spot. Whether it’s the colorful wall art, its insider feel or simply the reasonably priced coffee, Samsa is definitely worth checking out. 

8 Things to Do on Kafka’s Death Day

Lay a rock on Kafka’s grave

Pay your respects at Kafka’s final resting place. The author is buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Žižkov, where you can also find the graves of many other notable Czech writers and poets. He shares the simple granite headstone with his father and mother, Hermann and Julie Kafka. The setup, however, does not seem exactly cozy: Franz had a turbulent relationship with his father, whose authoritative and demanding character greatly influenced his son’s writings.

8 Things to Do on Kafka’s Death Day

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What’s your most Kafkaesque Prague experience?

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