“There Goes Kafka” is a small but interesting collection of essays related to Franz Kafka and the circle of friends in the early 20th century Prague to which also the book’s author, Johannes Urzidil, belonged. Although a strictly biographical reading is not appropriate for an understanding of Kafka’s works, it helps to know about the background of his life and work and here Urzidil can add quite a lot of material that seems to be interesting to me.
Kafka is asking a friend in 1916, shortly after the publication of Metamorphosis (“Die Verwandlung”):
“What have you to say about the dreadful things going on in our house?” –
“There Goes Kafka” is full of such details and it sheds also a light on some lesser known literary figures of the “Prague Circle”, an extremely interesting and productive group of (mostly Jewish) German-speaking authors. Ok, now we have the ultimate biography on Kafka by Reiner Stach, but I still like the small work by Urzidil – his “Goethe in Bohemia” is also excellent.
Urzidil’s style was very elegant and elaborated. Unfortunately the English translation is so awkward that it sounds sometimes almost like a parody. That’s a real pity. So, if you can, read the German original and let’s hope a publisher will give Urzidil’s work a new chance in the English-speaking world by commissioning a new – and better! – translation.
Johannes Urzidil: There Goes Kafka, Wayne State University Press 1968; Da geht Kafka, Langen & Mueller 2004
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