Biennale highlights genius of 20th century writers Kafka, Borges

Starting this Tuesday Prague is hosting a month-long biennale honouring the literary giants Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka. Similar to a festival held in the capital in 2004, the biennale will focus on underlying themes in the authors’ work as well as their continuing impact.

Over the next month literature fans will have a unique opportunity to revisit the work of two of the 20th century’s greatest authors – the Prague-born Franz Kafka and Argentine short story writer and essayist Jorge Luis Borges. This Tuesday saw the start of a two–day symposium which will be followed by a month of lectures, readings, film screenings, and theatre performances. Radio Prague spoke to one of the organisers of the biennale, the head of the Franz Kafka Society Markéta Mališová for a bit of perspective:

“Borges’ and Kafka’s work is related in that both had a unique way of seeing the world and both were unique personalities. I think it’s only right that Borges should be better known in central Europe, whereas Kafka is widely-read in Argentina.”

Borges died in 1986 but his wife Mariá Kodama, who heads a foundation dedicated to her husband’s work, is also currently in Prague to take part in the symposium. She told journalists, her husband had been intrigued by Kafka’s famous novella The Metamorphosis, in which protagonist Gregor Samsa awakens in his bed to find he has been transformed into a bug:

“Borges was a dedicated reader and he once told me about an English translation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis he had discovered which he translated into Spanish. He knew how much can be lost in translation, which is why he became interested in the original German text. He was aware that Kafka’s world was completely different from his own. But Kafka had something in common with Borges: intricateness and complexity.”

Up until late May, biennale visitors will get a chance to see, for example, a screening of Jan Němec’s 1975 film of The Metamorphosis as well as a version of The Trial put on at Prague’s Divadlo Komedie (Comedy Theatre). There is also an installation featuring Borges’ writing. The Franz Kafka Society’s Markéta Mališová again:

“The whole biennale is a festival during which we want to really bring Kafka’s and Borges’ periods to life. We want to bring visitors closer to their work.”

In two year’s time the Kafka/Borges biennale will be held not in Prague but in Buenos Aries. At that time, specialists have said, the subject of Kafka and Borges will be returned to again, not only for their own writing, but also for their impact: a starting point for broader analysis of 20th century literature.

To find out more information about the biennale programme in Prague starting this Tuesday please visit