Take a Visual Walking Tour of Franz Kafka’s Prague with Will Self (Then Read His Digital Essay, “Kafka’s Wound”)

“There is noth­ing intrin­si­cal­ly imag­i­na­tive about the idea of ‘gold,’ nor the idea of ‘moun­tain,’” writes Will Self, cit­ing an idea of the philoso­pher David Hume, “but join them togeth­er and you have a fan­tas­ti­cal­ly gleam­ing ‘gold moun­tain.’ And might not that gold moun­tain be the Lau­ren­z­iberg in Prague? After all, it looms over con­tem­po­rary Prague just as it loomed in the con­scious­ness of Franz Kaf­ka, whose ear­li­est sur­viv­ing nar­ra­tive frag­ment, ‘Descrip­tion of a Strug­gle,’ is in part an account of a phan­tas­magor­i­cal ascent of its slopes.”

This asso­ci­a­tion comes from “Kafka’s Wound,” Will Self­’s new essay in the Lon­don Review of Books — or rather, a new “dig­i­tal essay” from the LRB on the BBC and Arts Coun­cil Eng­land’s new site The Space, one which takes full advan­tage of the mul­ti­me­dia future, much enthused over back in the 1990s, in which we now find our­selves. For some read­ers, myself includ­ed, the asso­ci­a­tion of the author of The Meta­mor­pho­sis and The Tri­al with Hume, the author of so many vol­umes fic­tion­al, non­fic­tion­al, and psy­cho­geo­graph­i­cal (find some in our col­lec­tion of Free Phi­los­o­phy eBooks), con­sti­tutes rea­son enough to min­i­mize all oth­er win­dows and get read­ing.

But Self has tak­en on an even more ambi­tious project than that: the mind-map­pish inter­face of “Kafka’s Wound” offers a wealth of audio, video, and oth­er tex­tu­al mate­r­i­al to sup­ple­ment the expe­ri­ence of the main text, all of which con­nects in some way to the essay’s sub­ject: Will Self­’s “per­son­al rela­tion­ship to Kafka’s work through the lens of the short sto­ry ‘A Coun­try Doc­tor’ (1919), and in par­tic­u­lar through the aper­ture of the wound described in that sto­ry.” Self­’s own site describes the essay as “ ‘through com­posed’ with Will’s own thoughts, as he works, being respond­ed to by dig­i­tal-con­tent providers,” with more of that con­tent to come through July.

The envi­ron­ment inter­net, which facil­i­tates our nat­ur­al ten­den­cy to drift from sub­ject to at least semi-relat­ed sub­ject with an addic­tive vengeance, encour­ages asso­ci­a­tion­al think­ing. But so do cities, as a psy­cho­geo­g­ra­ph­er like Will Self knows full well. And so part of this rich lit­er­ary inves­ti­ga­tion takes the form of an hour­long doc­u­men­tary (click here or the image above to view), in which Self takes a walk­ing tour of Kafka’s Prague, seek­ing out the writer’s “genius loci,” the sites that gave set­tings to the mile­stones of his life and shape to his artis­tic and intel­lec­tu­al sen­si­bil­i­ties. He also takes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do a Kaf­ka read­ing right there in Kafka’s home­town. It’s one thing to read Kaf­ka with the Lau­ren­z­iberg in mind, but still quite anoth­er to do it with the Lau­ren­z­iberg in sight.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kafka’s Night­mare Tale, ‘A Coun­try Doc­tor,’ Told in Award-Win­ning Japan­ese Ani­ma­tion

Franz Kafka’s Kafkaesque Love Let­ters

Vladimir Nabokov Makes Edi­to­r­i­al Tweaks to Franz Kafka’s Novel­la The Meta­mor­pho­sis

The Art of Franz Kaf­ka: Draw­ings from 1907–1917

Four Franz Kaf­ka Ani­ma­tions: Enjoy Cre­ative Ani­mat­ed Shorts from Poland, Japan, Rus­sia & Cana­da

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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