On my long flight home from Prague, I thought about Multitudinous Seas, about a research network that would connect London to Providence to Cape Town to Calcutta, about how I’ll deal with the heat wave I’ve flown back into, and about the weird surging liveliness of a gorgeous ancient city overrun by touristas.
I also spend many transatlantic hours reading and thinking about Kafka.
Leopards break into the temple and drink the sacrificial temples dry; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance and it becomes part of the ceremony.
In years of mulling this astounding aphorism, I’ve usually thought it was about literary history, change, and continuity. For a while I even thought I’d use it as an epigram for my dissertation, as a way to explain what I was working out about genre theory and early modern narrative romance. Now I think it’s got an eco-angle too, since it’s a great, compact example of what literary culture does best and what we need to do in relation to ideas of ecology, namely come to terms with radical change.
After spending a week between Kafka’s house and the Hard Rock Cafe in Prague, I now think it’s also about Prague as a historical artifact, with its layering and mixing, its many languages and eras and communities. Old cities create such amazing chrono-mixes.
I suppose it’s also possible that Kafka was thinking of this very famous pub, the drinking home base of the great Prague poet Bohumil Hrabal, where Vaclav Havel once brought Bill Clinton for a symbolic beer. We tried to get in last Thursday night, but they don’t really serve tourists, esp not close to closing time.