Franz Kafka and German-speaking literature focus of this year’s Book World Prague

Franz Kafka

Preparations are in full swing for the annual international book fair and literary festival Book World Prague, which gets underway in May. Organizers have just announced that this year’s edition will honour the centenary of Franz Kafka. Unlike in previous years, the guest of honour won’t be just one country, but German-language literature as a whole. I discussed the upcoming event with its director, Radovan Auer:

Radovan Auer | Photo: Tereza Kunderová,  Czech Radio

“The reason why we decided to select German speaking literature as a collective guest of honour involving mainly by Germany, Switzerland and Austria, is that this year we have the 100th anniversary of the death of Franz Kafka. Kafka is the person who connects German-speaking literature with Prague, so that was one of the reasons why we made this decision.”

How will this anniversary be reflected in the programme?

“There will be more than 100 events dedicated to Franz Kafka, so I am not able to name all of them. But the official opening of our book event will be the concert of the Kafka Band starring author Jaroslav Rudiš and drawer Jaromír 99.”

The Kafka band, if I'm not mistaken, sets Kafka's texts to music…

“Yes, that’s right.”

Even the festival’s motto will be linked to Kafka. It is his quote ‘A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.’

“Yes. This motto will run through all the programmes, not just the ones dedicated to German-speaking literature or Franz Kafka. It is also connected to our activities in the field of freedom of speech.

“We will again hand out the Jiří Theiner Award, which is dedicated to authors who are fighting for freedom of speech. And of course it will also be reflected in the programme of other authors.”

Can you mention at least some of the highlights of the programme dedicated to German-language literature?

The motto of the current edition,  which will be the philosophical line of the festival reflecting on the purpose of literatures and how they change our inner life,  is Kafka's quote "A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us." | Photo: Svět knihy

“At the moment we have some 20 events with German-speaking authors. Some of them are connecting the Czech territory with German speaking countries like Jaroslav Rudiš with Reinhardt Christ and many others. But I am not going to name them right now, because we will announce the programme in early March.”

Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to?

“I can name for instance the Armenian writer Narine Abgaryan, who is currently quite popular in the Czech Republic. She will present her new book at our book fair.

“There will also be a special guest who we wanted to invite for some time and now we have finally succeeded, and that is Russian dissident Lyudmila Ulitskaya.”