Charles Bridge, Prague
On the eve of Prague Writers’ Festival, Judy Darley visits the capital of the Czech Republic to discover what it is about this city that produces so many poets, short story writers, satirists and authors.
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke was born and studied in Prague, writer and satirist Jaroslav Hasek lived in Prague for most of his life and used the city as the setting for many of his stories. Writer Karel Capek, poet Vladimir Holand and writer Bohumil Hrabal all lived and died here. Author Milan Kundera studied and lectured at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and set his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being here. And Franz Kafka, the creator of an entire genre of writing, spent most of his life here.
So it’s no wonder that the annual Prague Writers’ Festival attracts so many literary stalwarts, from Iain Banks to Peter Matthiessen.
Prague's Dancing House
At midday the following day we boarded a boat for a two-hour river cruise with lunch included - the most serene way to see Prague’s most dramatic architecture. We glimpsed imposing apartment buildings, hotels, office blocks and the Dancing House - the curiously twisted Fred and Ginger building created in the 1990s by architects Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic.
There’s something rather magnificent about a city whose architecture defaults to the extraordinary, whether it’s Baroque, Art Nouveau, Gothic or simply outlandishly modern. Surely growing up in such surroundings would have an impact on your way of viewing the world! It’s a factor to take into account when considering the work of Franz Kafka - an author so unique he inadvertently invented a genre.