The Messiah will only arrive when we no longer need him.
--Kafka, Fragments from Notebooks and Loose Pages
You are about to enter the threshold. Here, Kafka and Prague recognize each other once morethen conceal themselves again. The threshold is Kafkaesque. It also refers to the mythical origin of the citys namepráh, that is, threshold. The myth of Prague and Kafkas aura feed off each other. Both the writers lucid final agony and K.s struggle, in all its variations, partake of the metaphor of the threshold. There, the belief in a Promised Land merges with the impossibility of Kafka journeying to Palestine. At this frontier, we perceive the embrace of the god of suffocation, but also the presence of another world, one where there is no evil. The threshold is a deferred place, a postponed end, an unfinished work. Alienation, violence, and nihilism fight to close off the horizon, but the desire for meaning persists.
Kafkaesque is one of the adjectives that the contemporary world has chosen to represent itself. It is quick to apply the term in intolerable or hopeless situations. Yet Kafkaesque also implies something more. There always comes a moment when creation is not taken tragically; it is merely taken seriously. In that moment we see a small light in the dark, which extends the realm of the possible as we are led away from denial.
Joseph Florian, a Catholic schoolteacher who gave up teaching in protest of the anticlerical policies of the young Czechoslovakian republic, founded a publishing company in the small Moravian town of Stará Rise. He was instrumental in the acceptance of Kafkas work in Bohemia in the years following the writers death.
Pavel Eisner, a bilingual Czech-German journalist and translator, played a major role in popularizing Kafkas work in Bohemia in the years before World War II. Eisner was one of the people responsible for the gradual international recognition of Kafkas body of work. As early as the late 1920s, Eisner insisted to the German Studies department of the University in Prague that Kafkaa giant for whom ten Nobel prizes would have been too fewshould be required reading.
In 1989, the Velvet Revolution saw Kafka reunited with Czech culture. He could not have envisioned how accurate his prophesies about the future of his city would prove to be, nor could he have foreseen the tribute that every generation of leading writers would pay him. While the center of Prague may have been the setting for an extraordinary spectacle in his dreams, he could never have imagined that he would be recognized as one of the citys major cultural figures.