The Castle Hill Was Hidden: Franz Kafka and Czech Literature

Alfred Thomas

in Prague Palimpsest

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780226795409
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226795416 | DOI:
The Castle Hill Was Hidden: Franz Kafka and Czech Literature

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This chapter explores Franz Kafka's complex relation to Czech literature in terms of his ambivalent nostalgia for his father's maternal language and culture, and his skeptical alienation from all constructions of identity. This paradoxical movement between belonging and disavowal is manifested in Kafka's transformation of key works of Czech literature from the redemptive articulation of the writer's role as the conscience of the national collective to an antiredemptive reinvention of the writer as a universal figure liberated from all forms of ethnic and religious affiliation. A corollary of Kafka's need for anonymity is the gradual effacement of Prague as a recognizable setting of his stories and novels. Only by erasing all topographical references to the city of his birth could Kafka achieve his desired goal as the universal chronicler of modern urban life. The chapter also examines the equally complex and ambivalent reception of Kafka's works in postwar Czech literature.

Keywords: Franz Kafka; Czech literature; Prague; central Europe; Prague-German writers

Chapter.  14021 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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