Embracing your inner vermin

July 19, 2019

The Franz Kafka museum

It was the bug’s bad luck to have wandered up the gossamer curtain in our hotel room, just as the early morning sun had revealed its presence like a spotlight from a guard tower.

It is what it is folks, Traveler photo submitted by Hiroko N (Nov 2015) via Trip Advisor

“Reid, please kill it, it might be a bedbug,” Carol commanded, as her sleepy, still opening eyes caught sight of the invader immediately.

I was more attuned to the thought of crushing an insect in the city that was home to Kafka’s most famous work, Metamorphosis, than I was contemplating Carol’s summation of the bug’s identity as yet another swipe at my choice of low-rent accommodations. “Sorry, Gregor,” I said, as I knocked it to the floor and crushed it into extinction, “but I can’t allow m’lady to awake from a troubled sleep, now can I?”

On the cockroach trail to the Kafka museum

In truth, we arrived at the Franz Kafka Museum much the way a cockroach might: wandering aimlessly down shadowy lanes and dead end alleys, furtively looking about appearing lost, abruptly changing directions, scurrying away from the knots of the flag-led “bus people” who only wanted pictures of the famous Piss Sculpture (depicting two men peeing), finally alighting at the museum’s entrance, only to be dismissively brushed away to another building to buy the tickets.

The museum devoted to whining and procrastination

The museum seems structured by the contents of a letter Kafka wrote to his father, essentially telling him he was the cause of all Franz’s miseries, and to please F@#k Off. Immediately, I was drawn to the son for having written a letter to his father that I always had wanted to. But what really made me feel a kinship to Kafka was how much he hated his day job, and how he blamed it for not being able to finish anything he’d start out writing. There was a hopefulness about seeing what amounted to a whiner with a possible Oedipus complex having a museum devoted to the memory of his relatively shortish, as well as unfinished works.

We’d come to the decision to visit the Kafka museum as a result of a compromise. Carol wanted to visit museums, and I told her I had the constitution to manage at most one. We went through the list a couple of times, before agreeing on a literary museum. I know what you all are thinking, but it was not as one-sided a decision as it sounds. And Carol did get a chance to take a photo of the Piss Sculpture just out front of the entrance. (Though because it was the focal point of so many tourists, I talked her out of taking it. The photo here was ripped off the Internet.)

A Happy Hour break from the Sturm und Drang of Dresden and Kafka

On top of all his familial and artistic difficulties, Kafka was sickly for much of his adult life, occasionally bolting the grim gloominess of Prague for more vibrant locations, before succumbing to tuberculosis around the age of 40. Carol found the museum less than uplifting.

“He was so sad,” she said, as we emerged into the square, suddenly in need of a Happy Hour. Over a glass, we commiserated over how dark a turn this trip had suddenly taken. “First the Dresden firebombing, now this poor soul. I think we need a change of experience.”

Which made an earlier decision of ours to make a day trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp on Saturday so…ah, I hate to overuse this term, but it soooooo fits…Kafkaesque.