House No. 22 on The Golden Lane is situated in the Prague Castle. It is so called because in the 16th Century, the Emperor had a number of Alchemists trying to make gold. They were housed on this lane.
Kafka did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – his sister did.
And she did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – she rented it so she could have a place to meet her lover in secret.
The secret was necessary because her lover was a Christian.
So the house was vacant most of the time.
Enter Kafka. He started to go there (at the suggestion of his sister) so he could have a place to be alone. Otherwise he would be with his parents, which was not conducive to either his (nor his sister’s) desires.
He never stayed the night, but was there most evenings for months. He wrote a whole book of short stories in his book The Country Doctor while there.
I set a third of my novel about Kafka in this tiny house.
I’ve visited it.
Peered from the windows.
Looked up the stairs.
Ducked in the doorway.
When I was there while the country was still under Communist control, it was a book store.
But – Kafka being Kafkaesque long after death – none of his books were displayed.
From Kafka In The Castle
27 November 1916
Should I comment upon my unique and strange surroundings – this tiny house of Ottla’s. Not shared with a fiancée, but a sister. This place would not do for Felice, it is too small and too spare and too far from the heart of the city. But I feel secure against the winter. Up here in the castle.
As with all the tiny houses on Alchemist Lane, this one has its history of the quest for gold. Thus I fit right in, for I am after such purity.
29 November 1916
I like these walks up and down from the castle. I am surprised – and surprised because I am surprised. Perhaps I will sometime stay overnight, but I doubt it. It is Ottla’s house, and she should keep possession in appearance as well as fact. I impose as it is, which may be the right of an older brother, but not my wish. If it weren’t for Ottla, my life would be bleak beyond what I could bear.
27 December 1916
Ottla says I am staying here too late into the night. But she is implying more. I am certain she is soon to tell
me that I should stay in her tiny house all night. Sleep here. Have things prepared and ready so I could go directly to the office in the morning. But the office must be more than just distance from this place.
30 January 1917
What a storm. The storm of the year, perhaps. It was with difficulty that I came here today, and this might be the night when I shall actually stay. This tiny house, once it’s warm, is a perfect refuge. The winds howling along the Stag Moat, throwing snow at the window behind me, can easily put one back into Medieval times. Might someone have been where I am now – not with pen and paper – but tools and flasks, and elusive gold? With questions and a quest?
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