Theses Doctoral

Reading Kafka in Prague: The Reception of Franz Kafka between the East and the West during the Cold War

Tuckerova, Veronika

This dissertation explores the transmission, reception, and appropriation of Franz Kafka in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, against the background of the contemporary international readings of Kafka, especially in West Germany.

The first chapter examines Paul Eisner's translation of the Trial in the context of his influential triple "ghetto theory" and from the perspective of his contemporary translation discourse as well as recent translation theories. The second chapter focuses on the reception of Gustav Janouch's Conversations with Kafka, and the reasons why this controversial text was welcomed in the West and dismissed in the East as a forgery. The chapter uses new archival discoveries about Janouch and discusses questions of witness and testimony. The role of "witness" took an ominous turn in the case of Eduard Goldstücker, who is the focus of the third chapter. Goldstücker was tried in the Slánský show trials in the early 1950s and forced to testify against Slánský.

The chapter explores how Goldstücker attempted to come to terms with his past through reading of Kafka. The secret police files that were kept on him provide new insights on Goldstücker's published texts, public persona, and the Liblice Conference that succeeded in rehabilitating Kafka in 1963. The last chapter examines the samizdat publications of Kafka's works. This chapter spans the 1960s to the 1980s Underground culture and examines the appropriation by Ivan Jirous of the "ghetto" topos and Kafka for the Czech Underground.

I address the following topics: the status of witness as a legitimization of an "authentic" reading, censorship, the interplay between politics and literature, and the construction of authorship.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Germanic Languages
Thesis Advisors
Huyssen, Andreas A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 15, 2014