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This report is taken from PN Review 157, Volume 30 Number 5, May - June 2004.

Christmas, with Kafka Marius Kociejowski

Although Prague at most appears in occasional paraphrases in Kafka's work, it nevertheless exists everywhere in his writing, like the salt in the water of the Buddhist parables.
Johannes Urzidil, There Goes Kafka


I went into the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) in Prague, where, beneath an enormous Christmas tree, a small manger held live animals of various species. Suddenly there was a terrible commotion and much cheering from onlookers as two of its occupants, a donkey and a llama, got into battle. The llama screamed as the donkey made for its neck and the smaller creatures, a goat and a lamb and I can't remember what else, scrambled beneath the plunging of hooves. The donkey and the llama, their teeth bared, spun in circles and such was the centrifugal force they produced that the slatted fence confining them began dangerously to bulge. I shouted and waved, fruitlessly trying to separate them. There was more laughter from the mocking circle. I was put in mind of the lumpish figures in Bruegel's Christ Falling beneath the Cross, which here amounted to rather more than a cultural reference. Those fleetingly warped faces were painted for all time.

A woman in furs walked over from the other side of the square.

`Basta!' she said, in a firm voice.

Obediently the animals stopped and the crowd dispersed, doubtless disappointed at so happy an outcome. The creatures brayed a little more and then ...


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