Franz Kafka? The writer who lived in Prague and was sick all the time? We know a different Kafka, and we’d like to open a permanent exhibition in Zürau to introduce you to Kafka-globetrotter who liked going to the cinema, did sports and rode a motorbike.
Author: Jindra & Matyášová
Kafka on a beach in Denmark, 1914.
He always tried something new, such as fitness...
In 1909, he saw an aeroplane for the first time.
He enjoyed his holiday at Lago di Garda, Italy.
He saw this luxury hotel near Lago Maggiore.
In Paris, Kafka admired doubledeckers.
He was also in the climate spa in Merano.
He visited factories in Tetschen (Děčín).
In Milan, Kafka saw the Duomo and the Opera.
He also visited this mysterious island, Helgoland.
He went to Rigi Kulm, Switzerland..
In Berlin, Kafka saw this railway station.
He had a great time at the beach in Norderney.
He also went skiing to the Tatra Mountains.
Kafka also liked this view from Oybin, Germany.
His sister Ottla taught him to ride a motorbike.
In 2003, I, Judita Matyášová (journalist), met the photographer Jan Jindra. He told me he liked taking pictures of all the places Kafka had visited. What…? I could imagine Kafka travelling to Vienna but across Europe?
Soon I started reading Kafka’s diaries and letters to find out that Kafka was not the homebody we often think. He liked going to the cinema, enjoyed vegetarian meals, and admired planes. He travelled to Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark or even Romania.
For several years, Jan Jindra and I had been travelling in Kafka’s footsteps, and now we’d like to show you who he really was.
What’s our aim?
We’d like to open a permanent exhibition “Kafka on holiday” in a former oast house in the village of Siřem/Zürau where Kafka stayed for eight months.
For 12 years, we’d been mapping all the places visited by Franz Kafka. We visited 70 sites across Europe where he spent his holidays or went on business trips, and we described our adventure in a book published by Academia in 2009.
But we felt it was not enough – we wanted to find an authentic place where Kafka lived and open a permanent exhibition there. We found such a place in the tiny village of Zürau, about 80 km from Prague. Kafka stayed there for eight months in 1917-1918, and he really liked the country life there – going for walks, sunbathing on a hill, helping his sister Ottla on a farm. This year, the local Franz Kafka club, led by David Herblich, offered us to mount the exhibition in a former oast house.
On the first floor, we’d like to open a permanent exhibition about Kafka’s stay in Zürau and his travels across Europe. The exhibition will introduce you to a different Kafka – an active man who liked travelling, going to the cinema, eating vegetarian food, and exercising. On the second floor, there will be an exhibition hall for artists who want to get inspired by this unusual, almost untouched place.
We have hundreds of historical photographs and interesting stories about Kafka, but we need to rebuild the former oast house at first. Your money will be used to pay for the necessary repairs in the interior and to hire an architect specialized on industrial buildings, a stage designer, craftsmen, producers of exhibition panels, English and German translators, and producers of marketing materials.
If we collect more than 31,758 euros, we can start working on another aim: we’d like to build a residence for writers in Zürau. The village is magical also because it’s so untouched and far from the civilization. It’s an ideal place for authors who want to get inspired and write in peace. One of them will be chosen by an international committee and if we’re lucky, they will be able to come and spend a month in a place where Kafka lived already next year. The apartment is plainly furnished (with a bed, table, and a chair) and it needs a new bathroom. The money will be used to build the facilities.
We keep hearing that Kafka was a grumpy and boring guy. But we’d like to change that!
Our aim is to present Kafka as an active man who was interested in a healthy life-style, ate vegetarian food, used to go to the cinema, and liked modern dances, rowing and sports. We’d also like to inspire people to read his texts and experience what we did: an amazing adventure with Franz on holiday!
Judita Matyášová works as a journalist for the Lidové noviny. She writes about cultural events and records the stories of Czechs who left their country in the 20th century.
In 2009, Judita Matyášová and Jan Jindra published a book about Franz Kafka and his travels, mapping about 70 places all over Europe. In 2013, Judita published a book about the fate of Czech Jewish children in Denmark, Přátelství navzdory Hitlerovi (Friendship in Defiance of Hitler).
She regularly lectures at Yad Vashem, in the Jewish Museum in Prague, in Stockholm or Copenhagen, and at the Anglo-American University in Prague.
Jan Jindra studied photography at the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and created a series of thematic cycles exhibited both in the Czech Republic and abroad. Besides the Kafka project, he documents the places visited by Rainer Maria Rilke.
Jan Jindra also teaches photography at Tomáš Baťa University in Zlín; he is a co-ordinator of several international projects, e.g. the Novesta workshop in the former Baťa factory in Zlín, and curator of the exhibition presenting the life of Tomáš Baťa, jr. in the auditorium of the rector’s office at Tomáš Baťa University in Zlín.