where the writers are
Kafka And Borges Meet In Prague

Not - perhaps - in person, but their spirits and their craft get twinned at the Kafka/Borges Biennale. Switching years between Prague and Buenos Aires, the literary festival presents present day artistic works from both Argentina and The Czech Republic.

Kafka and Borges have had immeasurable influence on contemporary literature, and Kafka had a great influence on Borges. Which goes to show that first impressions are not always lasting. Upon first reading Kafka, a young Borges classed what he read as "extraordinarily insipid” . This did not last.

Franz Kafka in Prague

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Transatlantic literary ties at Kafka/Borges biennale

Kafka/Borges – Prague/Buenos Aires biennale takes place in the Czech capital this year with an added pair of literary greats in the mix

by Michael Stein 


Literary festivals are usually devoted to individual writers or the writers from a particular language or country. That a festival can be devoted to a pair of writers who never met one another and who come from such vastly different places as Central Europe and South America is a testimony to the profound cultural links that have developed over time, links that owe a significant debt to the very writers being celebrated in Prague now – Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges.

While the parallel between these two giants of world literature seems more than evident today, it got off to an inauspicious start. The fact that Borges lived up to 1986 makes it seem as if the two writers are from different eras of literary history, while in fact Kafka was only 16 years older and still had seven years left to live when the young Argentine first read him. Borges wrote that he came across Kafka’s work in 1917 in an avant-garde literary journal — and it didn’t leave a positive impression on him.

© Kafka-Borges BiennaleA dark take on Franz Kafka

“Amidst all this boisterous print, a short text signed by Franz Kafka seemed to me — in spite of my youthful docility as a reader — extraordinarily insipid,” Borges wrote. “Now, in my old age, I dare at last to own up to a case of unforgivable literary insensitivity; I was offered a revelation, and I passed it by.”

Obviously, Borges later took up that revelation to a degree that helped shape his own unique literary sensibility and depiction of paradoxical and labyrinthine worlds.