Eyes Wide Shut*

*Eyes Wide Shut is a 1999 film directed, produced and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. It was based on the 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) by Arthur Schnitzler.

Image: a sister of writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) rented this house, 22 Golden Lane, Prague Castle, in the summer of 1916; Kafka used this house to write for approximately one year.

From: Levels of Life (2013), by Julian Barnes:

There is a man in Venice I remember as clearly as if I had photographed him; or, perhaps, more clearly because I didn’t.”

From: Camera Lucida (La Chambre Claire) (1980) by Roland Barthes:

“Ultimately – or at the limit – in order to see a photograph well, it is best to look away or close your eyes. “The necessary condition for an image is sight,” Janouch told Kafka; and Kafka smiled and replied: “We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes.” “.

Joseph Epstein wrote in the July/August 2013 issue of The Atlantic:

“…Kafka, the critic Jeremy Adler holds, is “less dazzling than Proust, less innovative than Joyce, [but his] vision is more stark, more painful, more obviously universal than that of his peers.” Kafka’s universality derives from his high level of generality. Places are not named; most characters go undescribed; landscapes, sere and menacing, appear as they might in nightmares. Joyce and Proust work from detail to generality; Kafka works from generality to detail, giving his fiction the feeling that something deeply significant is going on, if only we could grasp what precisely it is.

“The vicinity of literature and autobiography could hardly be closer than it is with Kafka,” Erich Heller wrote. “Indeed, it almost amounts to identity.” The broader lineaments of Kafka’s autobiography are well known. Taken together, they constitute a life of nearly unrelieved doubt and mental suffering.

From Kafka’s Letter to His Father, we know that Hermann Kafka was strong and oppressive, a man who left his son with a permanent feeling of inadequacy. We know of the drudgery of Kafka’s job as a lawyer at the Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institute in Prague and the firsthand acquaintance it gave him with the hideous entanglements of bureaucracy, entanglements that now go by the name Kafkaesque. Perhaps most pertinent are his misfired love affairs. Kafka was engaged to two women, one of them twice, and never married. He died in 1924, at 40, of tuberculosis, without having quite lived except during those solitary nights that, in trancelike exaltation, he devoted to his writing. Before his death he instructed his stalwart friend Max Brod to destroy much of his work, but, against Kafka’s wishes, Brod chose not to do so, thereby becoming a minor hero of literature…”

Renee Reizman wrote at the Literary Hub on 18.6.19:

“…Apart from his tombstone and the old stone buildings, every Kafka attraction I visited was built in the 21st century. Czechoslovakia’s uneasy leaders had tried to scrub Kafka from Prague’s history; now, the city welcomes his lucrative presence every day. It’s an unusual contrast to how Kafka wrote about his city, where the narrow streets and labyrinthian alleyways induce claustrophobia and anxiety. Kafka’s Prague was a place of alienation, where his religion and native language forced him into the margins. Without close reading, contemporary Prague looks like a place that has always celebrated Kafka, when in fact, Czech citizens barely knew of their most famous author’s existence for nearly 50 years.

Tourists like me, who recoil at the thought of Kafka as a brand, still come to Prague and look for ways to connect to the author. His commercialized omnipresence makes it easy to pick up on the threads that most resonate…”

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