Until the 21st century, there was no monument to Kafka in Prague. This was remedied in 2004, when this statue was erected near the Spanish Synagogue in a little square where Kafka liked to stroll. At the base of the statue are bug-like legs, alluding to Kafka’s perhaps most famous novel, “Metamorphosis.” The bronze remains shiny on his knees, and at the base, where lots of tourists are drawn to do what I did – get photographed with the statue! There is a Kafka Museum now, also, along the riverfront. The Czech sculptor Pavla Horáková said the following on Czech Radio: “This little square in the middle of Prague’s Dusni Street is what the city’s famous native, writer Franz Kafka, probably saw each time he looked out of his window. The historic Jewish Quarter in Prague is where Kafka spent most of his life – and often features in his novels and short stories. But despite that, for years there was no permanent memorial to the man who changed the face of 20th century literature. But now, all that has changed.
“I think this location is beautiful. At first, I didn’t think about it that way. But later, I realised that maybe there was not a better place than this one.”
Scultpor Jaroslav Rona is the author of a bronze memorial to Franz Kafka which was recently installed here in Prague’s Dusni, or Holy Spirit Street. He told me that this location, where a Catholic church and a synagogue stand next to each other, has a special significance.
“Because in this neighbourhood of two churches, I mean one church and one synagogue, there is this tension between the two religions. And this is exactly his place, Kafka used to walk around here every day because he lived on the opposite side of the street, at 27 Dusni Street. He walked around every day.”
The tall black sculpture represents a headless male figure in a suit with a somewhat smaller figure of Kafka sitting on his shoulders. Jaroslav Rona says he found inspiration for the statue in Kafka’s work.
“I read a lot of his things; about him and from him but this one is something very important. I think that in this short story, there is everything from his creation, everything very concentrated. And that’s why I chose this basic symbol – a man who jumped another one on the shoulders.”
The image of a young man riding on another one’s shoulders through the night streets of Prague appears in Franz Kafka’s early short story “Description of a Struggle”.
“And now – with a flourish, as though it were not the first time – I leapt onto the shoulders of my acquaintance, and by digging my fists into his back I urged him into a trot. But since he stumped forward rather reluctantly and sometimes even stopped, I kicked him in the belly several times with my boots, to make him more lively. It worked and we came fast enough into the interior of a vast but as yet unfinished landscape.”