Cody's Reviews > The Castle

The Castle by Franz Kafka
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Mar 06, 07

bookshelves: modernism, mittel-europe, favorites

I had the esteemed (and terrifying?) pleasure of reading this after having traveled to Prague. The landscape of Městská čast Praha 1, encompassing the Jewish quarter, Josefov, and the Prague Castle, illuminated this text tremndously; a perfectly example of mise en scene. Upon a return to Prague this past year, I couldn't shake many of these mortifying images from my head, even when confronted with the recent massive influx of tourists, which are, sadly, rapidly changing the dynamics of the city.

I even had my own, unintentional, Kafkaesque experience, attempting to scale the hill to the Castle after too much absinthe. No, I didn't reach the Castle. Kafka: 1 - Cody: 0.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I too recently visited Prague, and spent a not inconsiderable amount of time gazing fondly up at Pražský hrad, imagining snow (well, it was Christmas and almost snowing) and wind, and the castle officials absconded up there, nursing their perversions amongst towers of pointless documentation. It was therefore with some small dismay that I leant from Harold Salfellner’s ‘Franz Kafka and Prague’, that the model for Kafka’s castle was probably not Prague’s, but rather Wallenstein castle in Friedland, a city he visited on business in 1911. The castle was owned by the Clam-Gallas family (the name clinches it for me!). Your absinthe-inspired climb does sound rather heroic though.


Cody What an interesting find, Troy. It does make sense that the inspiration would be found in a smaller town, as there is an air of the "provincial" throughout the novel--I recently watched Béla Tarr's *Werkmeister Harmonies,* which, though set more recently and in rural Hungary, recalled much of the same tone and atmosphere.

Having had Kafka inform so much of my experience in Prague, it is a bit disappointing to hear your realization, but, at the same time, Kafka's appeal and influence is so all-pervasive that, actually, I'm not sure if this lessens his particular impact on our Prague adventures. Maybe it's just more evidence of his universality.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Cody wrote: "What an interesting find, Troy. It does make sense that the inspiration would be found in a smaller town, as there is an air of the "provincial" throughout the novel--I recently watched Béla Tarr'..."

Oh dear. I don't mean to blight memories of a wonderful trip. In fact, although ‘the other castle’ may have inspired the novel, I find it very hard to believe that Prague’s castle didn’t have its own influence, given that Kafka had a direct view of it from his bedroom for such a long period of his life, and owned with Ottla his house in the Little Golden Lane. All those administrative buildings which circumscribe it seem to scream ‘The Castle’.
If you are interested, you could do much worse than Salfellner’s guide ‘Franz Kafka and Prague’ to restore your vision of Franz and Prague, and just how much his works are permeated by the city. It is a travel guide, probably won’t set your world on fire as far as the writing goes and it’s cheaply produced, full of typographical errors, but it is a rather sobering antidote to the claustrophobic attention applied to Kafka’s diaries, letters etc. as it situates Kafka in a much broader context. Also might be a good way to re-live a holiday. I’ve got a rather unhelpful write-up of it in my book list if you’re interested.

I'll do a bit of research re: Béla Tarr.


Cody I'll definitely check out the Salfellner, Troy. And no worries--you didn't blight my memories at all, but, rather gave me a good excuse to recall, as well as re-ponder, my time there. Cheers.


message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 30, 2010 08:47AM) (new)

Cody wrote: "I'll definitely check out the Salfellner, Troy. And no worries--you didn't blight my memories at all, but, rather gave me a good excuse to recall, as well as re-ponder, my time there. Cheers."

Cody, thanks so much for the Béla Tarr recommendation. I had a look into him on-line and he looks like someone I'd be really interested in. I'll be off to the festival DVD rental shop now then.


message 6: by Cody (last edited Apr 30, 2010 09:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cody Enjoy, Troy! One of the big draws for me with Béla Tarr's films are the scores, composed by Mihály Vig--I'm a musician myself, and I've scored a couple of short films (you can listen to one here, if you're inclined). The more I think about what exactly it is about the tone in *Werkmeister Harmonies* that resonates with Kafka, I realize it's not just the mise en scène or the plot or the characters, but also the music. I'll be eager to hear your thoughts.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Cody wrote: "Enjoy, Troy! One of the big draws for me with Béla Tarr's films are the scores, composed by Mihály Vig--I'm a musician myself, and I've scored a couple of short films (you can listen to one here, ..."

It was a terrific film! And I certainly concur that the atmosphere provoked by the score, along with all the other elements, does put one in mind of 'The Castle', I guess more so in the first segments while the allegory is still forming and the film's happenings retain their mysteriousness to a greater extent. I did find myself more captivated during the first (give or take) half for that reason, before the allegorising attained wheels and the razor wire and decommissioned military vehicles came out – it seemed to diffuse a little at that point, as it extended into social panorama, perhaps a bit like Bergman (Shame) or Haneke (Time of the Wolf). A happy trio of films that makes! The whole film is simply worth it though for the opening scene in the pub!

I also really liked your composition – it would be good to listen to it with pictures!


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Troy wrote: "Cody wrote: "Enjoy, Troy! One of the big draws for me with Béla Tarr's films are the scores, composed by Mihály Vig--I'm a musician myself, and I've scored a couple of short films (you can listen ..."

I should also say that I saw it with Spanish subtitles, which is fine, but I invariably don't 'get' as much as I do with English...


Cody Troy wrote: "The whole film is simply worth it though for the opening scene in the pub!"

I'm glad you enjoyed the film, Troy. I agree: the open scene in the tavern is simply magnificent. And thanks, much, for listening to my piece.


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