Experience the Exhibition
The Franz Kafka Museum opened in the summer of 2005 in the remarkable Herget Brickworks building on the Lesser-Town bank of the Vltava River.
Franz Kafka was born in Prague on 3 July 1883, died in a sanatorium in Kierling on 3 June 1924, and was buried in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague – Strašnice on 11 June.
The exhibition consists of two sections – Existential Space and Imaginary Topography.
KAFKA IN PRAGUE. Existential Space
The first stage of our immersion into Kafka’s world presents the way Prague shaped the author’s life, the mark it left on him and how its transformative power affected him. His diaries and extensive correspondence with family members, friends, lovers and publishers bear witness to this influence.
Our challenge is to try and capture the main conflicts in Franz Kafka’s life and be guided by the author’s views.
PRAGUE IN KAFKA. Imaginary Topography
The way in which Kafka depicts his city presents one of the most enigmatic approaches in modern literature. With only occasional exceptions, Kafka does not name the places he describes in his novels and stories.
Quite often we can observe attempts to prove that Kafka’s fictional works take place in Prague. It is generally understood that the anonymous cathedral in The Trial is none other than St. Vitus Cathedral; that the path taken by Joseph K. in the last chapter of the same book goes from the Old Town, across Charles Bridge to the outer limits of the Lesser Town. It is also said that the view from Bendemann’s window in The Judgment features the embankment, the Vltava River and its opposite bank in the same manner as it can be seen from the Mikulášská Street (today’s Pařížská Street), where Kafka’s family lived in 1912. Efforts have been made to prove that Prague’s topography is ever present despite going unnamed.
It is, however, not important. Kafka’s surreal architecture strives for other goals. The method in Kafka’s fiction is much more complex: he transforms Prague into an imaginary topography. The city takes a step back, and is no longer recognizable by its buildings, bridges and monuments. It is no longer important to identify a particular office, primary or secondary school, university, church, prison or castle, as these structures function in the role of metaphors and allegorical places.
© Franz Kafka Museum 2014 ; Author: Jan Trakal
This long-term exhibition takes us into the world of Franz Kafka (1883-1924), born in Prague and one of the greatest figures of 20th century world literature.
The exhibition presents:
- most of the first editions of Kafka’s works
- letters, diaries, manuscripts, photographs and drawings never before displayed in Prague
- 3-D installations
- audiovisual pieces and a soundtrack specially created for the exhibition
Franz Kafka Biography
3 July 1883 – Franz Kafka was born in Prague’s Old Town as the oldest son of Hermann Kafka (1852–1931), a haberdashery wholesaler, and Julie, née Löwy (1856–1934). The parents’ wedding took place in September 1882 in Prague in 8/929 Old Town Square.
The writer’s birthplace, the Tower House (Zum Turm), was situated on the crossroads of Maiselova and U Radnice streets, known today as Franz Kafka Square. It later burned down with only the house portal being preserved. The memorial bust on the house was sculpted by Karel Hladík in 1966.
Franz Kafka had five younger siblings. Brothers Georg (1885–1886) and Heindrich (1887–1888) died young. Sisters Gabriele (Elli 1889–1941), Valerie (Valli 1890–1942) and Ottilie (Ottla 1892–1943), the latter being Kafka’s most beloved sister, were born in the Minute House on the Old Town Square.
Kafka attended German Primary School for Boys in Masná Street.
Kafka studied at the German State Grammar School, located in the rear wing of the Golz-Kinský Palace on the Old Town Square. His classmates and friends included future art historian Oscar Pollak, poet and journalist Rudolf Illový, philosopher Hugo Bergmann and Ewald Felix Příbram, whose father was the director of the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute.
Kafka studied jurisprudence at the German Karl-Ferdinand University. He also attended lectures in German studies and art history.
Kafka met Max Brod for the first time, who was also as student at the Karl-Ferdinand University, in the German students’ Reading and Rhetorical Club. Max Brod and Franz Kafka’s friendship lasted until Kafka’s death in 1924.
Kafka became a member of the “Prague Circle,” an unofficial club of German writing authors in Prague. Max Brod introduced Kafka to philosopher and Sionist Felix Weltsch and writer Oskar Baum.
Kafka wrote his first short story, Description of a Struggle (Beschreibung eines Kampfes), which was published posthumously.
Kafka’s first recreation and recuperation trips to the climatic sanatorium in Zuckmantel.
During his school years he would also go on health holidays to the Vltava, Berounka and Sázava rivers and to visit his uncle (Siegfried) in Třešť.
Kafka obtained his doctorate in law.
One-year mandatory practice in a court in Prague.
At the intercession of his uncle from his mother’s side, Alfred Löwz, Kafka started to work for Assicurazioni Generali, located on the corner of Wenceslas Square and Jindřišská Street.
He worked for the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in 7/1075 Na Poříčí Street, first as an articled clerk. At the time of his early retirement for medical reasons in 1922, he held the position of a secretary.
His ambivalent relationship to his work in the office is obvious from his correspondence: “My job is unbearable to me because it conflicts with my only desire and my only calling, which is literature.” At the same time, however, he was proud of his work and his achievements in the hierarchy of the insurance institute.
Kafka published his first texts in Munich-based Hyperion magazine, while eight fragments of his early fiction appeared in Brod’s almanac Arkadia. He wrote in German, but he could also speak Czech and French. He also learned Hebrew in his later years.
Kafka traveled with Max Brod around Europe (northern Italy, Paris, Weimar). It was at this time that he began writing his Diaries. He would extend his foreign travel by staying in sanatoria focusing on natural healing in Erlenbach (1911), Jungborn (1912) and Riva (1913).
Kafka attended performances by the Jewish theater troupe from Lviv, which gave guest performances in Prague in that year. This encounter was crucial for Kafka’s relationship to Judaism and Jewish culture.
He began actively writing his first novel, The Man Who Disappeared (Der Verschollene) and other short stories, including The Judgment (Das Urteil), The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) and Hullabaloo (Grosser Lärm). A set of 18 short stories was published in December under the title Meditation (Betrachtung).
Kafka met Felice Bauer, their relationship and correspondence lasted through 1917 (encompassing more than 500 letters and postcards). During this relationship lasting over seven years, he proposed to Felice twice, but each time he broke the engagement. In 1914 he met his fiancée’s friend, Grete Bloch.
In the years before World War I, Kafka frequented the science society’s lectures organized by Berta Fanta in her house no. 3 on the Old Town Square, a house marked by the relief of a unicorn on the front façade. This was the meeting place of leading intellectuals who presented new concepts in many scientific fields (psychoanalysis, theory of relativity, transfinite numbers, quantum theory and others). In addition to Kafka, frequent visitors included physicist Phillip Frank, philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels, mathematician Gerhard Kowalewski, the founder of anthroposophy Rudolf Steiner, and even Albert Einstein, who was lecturing in Prague at the time.
Kafka moved away from his parents for the first time, renting an apartment in Bílkova Street, where he worked on novels The Trial (Der Prozess) and The Man Who Disappeared (also known as America, Der Verschollene, including the first chapter of the book, later published under the title of The Stoker, Der Heizer) as well as on the short story titled In the Penal Colony (In der Strafkolonie).
The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) was published for the first time by Kurt Wolff’s publishing house in Leipzig, which primarily cooperated with illustrator Ottomar Starke (1886–1962).
In a rented room in 22 Golden Lane in Prague Castle, Kafka wrote short stories which were published under the title of A Country Doctor (Ein Landarzt). One year later, he published his short story A Report to an Academy (Ein Bericht für eine Akademie).
Kafka rented an apartment in the Schönborn Palace in the Lesser Town (today’s U.S. Embassy), where he wrote the short story entitled The Great Wall of China (Beim Bau der chinesischen Mauer), inspired by Prague’s monument from Charles IV’s time – the Hunger Wall.
First signs of tuberculosis. The disease became one of the main reasons for the cancellation of the second engagement to Felice Bauer and the final termination of their relationship. Kafka left for a health holiday to his sister Ottilie’s in Siřem (Zürau) in northwestern Bohemia, who lived and worked on a farm with her husband Josef David.
His stays in sanatoria were only interrupted by short periods of work in the accident insurance institute; 1918 in Pension Stüdl in Želízy (Schelesen) near Mělník, 1920 in Merano, 1921 in Matliare in the High Tatras, 1922 in Špindlerův mlýn (Spindelmühle) in the Krkonoše Mountains and in Planá nad Lužnicí.
Kafka maintained a relationship with Julie Wohryzek, whom he met in Želízy. He terminated his engagement with Julia because of his father’s disagreement with it and broke up with her.
The literary jewels of this time include the famous Letter to His Father (Brief an der Vater), which Kafka never gave his father.
Kafka’s relationship with journalist Milena Jesenská, the first translator of his fiction into Czech, who played and important role in his life.
Kafka worked on The Castle (Das Schloss), which was published posthumosly in 1927, and on the short story entitled The Hunger Artist (Der Hungerkünstler), published postumosly in the summer of 1924.
In this year, Kafka was promoted to the position of the chief secretary at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute. Shortly after, he requested early retirement for medical reasons.
In Müritz, he met Dora Diamant, a Hasidic girl from Galicia, who was a young Zionist from an orthodox Jewish family. Dora revived in Kafka his wish to settle in Palestine. Kafka and Dora moved to Berlin in order to detach him from his family and to focus on writing. Dora strove to provide a creative environment. Kafka learned Hebrew and his diaries indicate that he dreamt about living in the Land of Israel. In this year, he wrote his short story, The Burrow (Der Bau).
Kafka’s health deteriorated. In March, Max Brod and Kafka’s uncle Siegfried Löwy moved him from Berlin to his parents’ house in Old Town Square in Prague. Here he worked on his short story, Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk (Josefine. Die Sängerin oder Das Volk der Mäuse). In April, Kafka, Dora Diamant and his physician Robert Klopstock left for the sanatorium in Kierling near Klosterneuburg in Lower Austria.
3 June 1924
Kafka died of laryngeal tuberculosis.
11 June 1924
He was buried in the family vault in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague-Strašnice. The tombstone was created by architect Leopold Ehrmann.
Adult: CZK 260
Reduced price for students, seniors and disabled persons: CZK 180
Family Ticket (2 Adults, 2 Children): CZK 650
We recommend you to book a visit with our professional guide (at least 7 days in advance). Our guided tours are available in following languages: Czech, English, German, French, Russian.
Guided tour prices: entrance fee + CZK 800
To enhance your experience, we have produced maps of Franz Kafka’s Prague (CZK 60) in the following languages (or as offered): Czech, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Turkish and Hebrew.
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The Guided Tour Form
118 00 Prague 1 – Lesser Town
Office/shop – Tel.: +420 257 535 373
Exhibition – Tel. +420 257 535 507
Reservations (office, shop): firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening hours – daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.