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Franz Kafka in the Prater

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Franz Kafka in the Prater |

Artists both male and female have always been inspired by the Vienna Prater, which is reflected in their works. Schnitzler's “Leutnant Gustl" (None but the Brave) sits on a bench on the main avenue and contemplates suicide. Felix Salten, together with photographer Emil Mayer, created a vivid journey of combined text and images in his oeuvre “Wurstelprater" in 1911. Tina Blau, a landscape painter whose birth name actually was Regina Leopoldine Blau, created many paintings with the Prater as her subject. Prominent amongst them her magnum opus, “Spring in the Prater“. The painting is 214 x 291cm and an atmospheric picture that shows the Prater as a recreational area.

Franz Kafka, like Tina Blau, was of Jewish descent. His aversion to Vienna is unsurpassed. He described Vienna as a withering away mega-village and probably was not particularly unhappy that nothing came of a possible postgraduate study at the University of World Trade in Berggasse. He considered this in case he could not find adequate employment in Prague after having finished his law studies. But fate allowed him to dwell in Prague, which unquestionably was highly important for his development as a writer.

Franz Kafka visited Vienna a few times. He spent about four beautiful days in the metropolis with Milena Jesenska. Years earlier, in Sept. 1913, shortly after his 30th birthday, he was in Vienna for professional reasons. He was a guest at the II. International Congress for Rescue Services and Accident Prevention in Parliament. He also took the opportunity to attend the XI. Zionist Congress taking place at the Musikverein at the time. And he decided on a trip to the Prater with friends.

A photo shows Kafka in a mock-up plane together with Albert Ehrenstein, Lise Weltsch and Otto Pick. The perspective gives the impression that the plane is hovering above the Prater. The Giant Ferris Wheel is clearly recognizable. It is certainly conceivable that he tried out a few entertainments and also took a spin on the Giant Ferris Wheel. Franz Kafka will have felt the charm of the Prater. The Prater is after all a world unto itself; as a sensitive person he surely let the atmosphere impact on him.

Franz Kafka did not record every detail of his life in his diaries. We know a lot about him, but a lot is speculation. He had a strong sense of humor and could occasionally enjoy life. These aspects might give rise to speculate that he explored the Prater with joy and spent some pleasant hours there. Kafka did not just suffer life like the rest of us, but also loved life. Would he otherwise have reminiscenced about how he liked the taste of beer even as a boy shortly before his death? Maybe the Prater inspired him, but it certainly delighted him.In any case he is smiling in the photo.

© Jürgen Heimlich 2021-09-15


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