Pages from manuscript of The Trial highlight of concurrent Kafka exhibitions in Prague

Franz Kafka

Two exhibitions opening in Prague on Friday will turn the spotlight on a writer closely associated with the city, Franz Kafka. One will focus on his classic novel The Trial, giving visitors a rare chance to see pages from the original manuscript, while the other will present Kafka and his work through the eyes of cartoonists. Ian Willoughby reports.

Franz Kafka
The side-by-side exhibitions at the city’s Old Town Hall will mark two anniversaries related to Prague native Franz Kafka, one of the most significant figures in world literature.

The first show, entitled The Trial, marks the 100th anniversary of when the German speaking author began his classic novel of alienation of the same title.

The centerpiece will be part of the original manuscript of The Trial, which was completed in 1915 but not published until 1925. The text is held by the Museum of Modern Literature in the German city of Marbach am Neckar.

Jacob Ráček is programme director of the event’s co-organiser the Goethe Institute.

“It was not possible to bring the whole handwritten manuscript, the whole body of The Trial to Prague, due to technical reasons. So we decided to bring the very first page and the very last page in the original. This is because Kafka started to write The Trial at the end and the beginning. These are the only two pages where we know Kafka decided that they would definitely be the start and the end.”

The exhibition also includes comments on individual pages of The Trial from the likes of Czech state attorney Lenka Bradáčova and author David Zane Mairowitz.

The second exhibition marks the 90th anniversary on June 3 of Kafka’s death. Entitled K: KafKa in KomiKs, it presents aspects of the literary great’s life and work through the eyes of cartoonists such as Robert Crumb.

Also featured is work by the Czech Republic’s Jaromír 99, best known for his work on the Alois Nebel books.

'The Castle' illustrated by Jaromír 99,  photo: SelfMade Hero publishing
Jaromír 99 collaborated with writer David Zane Mairowitz on a version of Kafka’s The Castle published last year. He describes his own experience of the novel and its author.

“When I read it I felt that it was visualising before my eyes. I also felt the atmosphere – which I kind of know, because I come from a small town where there’s a castle above the town and two main pubs. The stories were close to me… His work is timeless. It continues to speak to people today because the problems he describes, or the sensation, the civilisational anxiety, is something we’re still experiencing.”

The exhibitions, which run until the end of June, are free. Other events are also being held in connection with the anniversaries, including guided walking tours and theatre performances.