"One morning Gregor Samsa awoke from troubled dreams to find himself transformed into a giant beetle...." One of the most famous opening lines in world literature, Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. Now if you're a fan of Prague's greatest literary son, it will be well worth coming to the Czech capital in the next few weeks. The Argentine Embassy, Prague's Jewish Museum, the Kafka Society, and the Charles University have come together to organise an unusual Kafka festival. It aims to celebrate Kafka's life and work, but from a rather different angle, putting it into the context of a writer from the other end of the world, the great Argentine master of the short story, Jorge Luis Borges.
"Outside Europe, it was in Argentina where Franz Kafka found in Jorge Luis Borges a kindred spirit, the first promoter of his work in the Spanish speaking world", according to founder of the Franz Kafka Society Josef Cermak. The festival begins on June 3 - the 80th anniversary of Kafka's death - and comes to a close a month later on July 3 - the 121st anniversary of Kafka's birth. Milos Pojar is from the Education and Culture Centre of the Jewish Museum in Prague:
"The official opening of the whole festival will take place at the grave of Franz Kafka on June 3 and the official end will take place at the statue of Franz Kafka, which was unveiled last December. In fact, it is the first Kafka statue here in Prague after so many years. We'll start with a performance of Metamorphosis on Thursday evening at the Comedy Theatre (Divadlo Komedie). The director is Arnost Goldflam, a very well known director and writer here."
Twenty-three cultural events, including a literary evening devoted to Borges, readings from famous Czech and Argentine writers, seminars, theatre performances, exhibitions, and film screenings of movies devoted to Kafka and Borges, will be open to visitors at various venues around the city.
But those of you not familiar with the works of both authors may be wondering what they have in common. Although they never met, there is much that links their work says Milos Pojar:
"Both works have many similarities such as the use of metaphors and symbols like a labyrinth, eternity, repetitions, strangeness, dreams, and the other self. The nightmare work of Borges' fiction is also very similar to the work of Kafka. Kafka's work is in the curriculum at Czech high schools and young students must be familiar with Kafka. As far as Borges is concerned, he is not so much known here as he could be. This is also one goal of the festival - to bring the work of Borges closer to Czech visitors."
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