Kafka was a depressive wretch. His very name has come to represent situations where you find yourself powerless, stuck within the machinations of an endlessly bureaucratic system. Like trying to track down your luggage when lost on an Easyjet flight. Kafkaesque. Yet, he casts a broader shadow over a city than any other literary figure I've come in contact with. Bar maybe Hemingway in Havana. So it seems kind of incongruous for such a despairing figure to be the face of such a thrilling city. A history of diabolical invading dictators might have something to do with this. Prague now has the ability to make Paris look off the beaten tourist track but the Bohemians went back to back with the Nazis and the Soviets as overseers so Kafka's anxious scribblings became the voice of the people.
Working as an insurance lawyer certainly fed into Kafka's bleak view of existence but the most menacing force in his life was in fact his father. So when Kafka writes about transforming into an unsightly bug, becoming a burden upon his family, eventually dying and his family feeling joyous relief at his demise, you get a pretty graphic insight into the family dynamic.
The dark humour, concise and lucid writing style are an anecdote to the bureaucratic delays he railed against. They pull you along at a pace but saints be praised, Prague ain't no drag either. Every angle the eye can turn is littered with castles and an architecture often lost after WWII's bombfest. Czech food is as delicious as it is dense. Its beer and goulash, a revelation.
If you can find a bar that only serves beer, beer snacks like small sausages and cheese in jars of oil and is peopled by large bellied Czechs discussing politics, then you are in the right place.
Prague is a Western European pit stop for a good night out so save Kafka's short stories for the train ride in and out. Metamorphosis is a must but I'm all about the absurdity of the cheerily named Being Unhappy. Just as a Kafkaesque worldview no longer applies to Prague this story is a way better time than the name suggests.