Today I read a bit about Kafka from Prospect magazine. I have had an interest in Franz Kafka since Mr. P. and I visited his house next to the river flowing through Prague. If you are ever in Prague I highly recommend this experience. It is an interesting residence and although sad around the war years as he lost so many of his friends in the concentration camps it taught me a great deal about the man I knew so little about.
Reading this brief article I learned that :
In the summer of 1911, on holiday in Switzerland, Franz Kafka was working on a string of bestsellers. With his friend Max Brod, the 28-year-old writer devised the plan for a quintessentially modern set of books, which could be “translated into every language,” would “energise the whole person” and would provide their creators with “a business venture worth millions.” None of them would contain the man-sized insects, opaque legal machinations, ghastly bureaucratic punishments or anything else for which the name Kafka later became famous. Instead, they were to be a series of stripped-down travel guides for tourists on a budget, which Kafka and Brod intended to call Billig, or On the Cheap.
Armed with a volume of Billig, frugal travellers would enjoy straight talk from Kafka and Brod about decent hotels, fast trains and clean brothels as they travelled “On the Cheap Through Italy,” “On the Cheap Through Switzerland,” “On the Cheap in Paris” or “On the Cheap in the Bohemian Spas and Prague.” “NB the candour of our guide,” wrote Brod in his business plan, next to excited notes on buying “pineapples and madeleines” in the French capital and blagging free exhibition tickets “like a local.” Kafka, meanwhile, promised in his cautious, spidery handwriting that “exact tipping amounts” would be noted throughout. ( Prospect Magazine online)
Sadly this venture never got off the ground as other activities in life took over and the idea faded away.
Can you imagine had it happened how interesting these books would be to read more than 100 years later. I have a hard time imagining travelling around Europe in the years around 1911. WWI started several years later and I suppose that would have probably stopped a great deal of European travel. It was a wonderful idea but it just didn’t seem to be the right time.
For a moment picture yourself …
…sitting in a large armchair. A rainy day where the light is fading. You have a hot mug of coffee or hot chocolate, the dog lies by the fire or the cat in your lap. There is no work in the morning as it is a day off. You turn the pages on travelling through Europe in your favourite city reading a 1911 travel book. The people, the rivers, the food. It hooked me in.
2 thoughts on “Tuesday Trivia”
I would have loved them. Old travel narratives / guides are some of my favorite reading.
Great post and trivia. What a treasure such books would have been. Probably not the usual kind of guide books at the time. Thank you for sharing with us.
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