Introduction Kafka’s Travels?



Kafka’s travels?” “Did he travel?,” people ask me. “Didn’t he always stay in Prague?” Kafka indeed never moved from Prague until the final year of his life, and, yes, his travels were limited to short trips through Europe. But Kafka was an avid textual traveler, a voyager who traveled as a reader and a writer despite (or because of) his personal stasis.1 I discovered this in one of Kafka’s letters to his first fiancée, Felice Bauer, where I came across one of the eccentric biographical details that, according to Roland Barthes, force us to reassess an author’s entire oeuvre.2 The creator of the claustrophobic narratives The Metamorphosis and The Trial, it turned out, was also an enthusiastic reader, throughout his life, of popular utopian colonial travel stories written mostly for boys. According to Kafka, who was thirty-three years old when he wrote this 1916 missive, the exotic dime-store adventure series known as Schaffstein’s Little Green Books (Grüne Bändchen) included his “favorite” books. He tells Felice with great solemnity that one of these volumes “affects me so deeply that I feel it is about myself, or as if it were the book of rules for my life, rules I elude, or have eluded” (LF 532; BF 738, trans. rev.). Spurred on by this vision of the otherworldly poet of alienation being so moved by juvenile adventure stories, I began my own adventure, my own detectival quest.


Tour Guide Travel Diary Travel Guide Central European Region Modern Writer 
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  1. 55.
    See Elizabeth Boa, Kafka: Gender, Class, and Race in the Letters and Fictions (Oxford, 1996), 133–47; Karen Piper, “The Language of the Machine: Kafka and the Subject of Empire,” Journal of the Kafka Society of America 20 (1996): 42–54Google Scholar
  2. Paul Peters, “Witness to the Execution: Kafka and Colonialism,” Monatshefte 93 (2001): 401–25Google Scholar

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© John Zilcosky 2003

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