Hana Pichova, University of Texas, Austin

Bohumil Hrabal’s short story “Kafkarna” is set in Prague during the early 1950s. Although there are no direct references to the historical realities of the communist show-trials and executions, Hrabal opens the story with an allusion to Kafka’s The Trial and thus effectively sets up an expectation of yet another nightmarish vision of Prague. Hrabal’s vision, however, while echoing Kafka’s novel in significant ways, differs from it profoundly and creates a fundamentally different yet still somehow “Kafkaesque” fictional experience. Hrabal portrays Prague as a realm of magical possibilities which are somehow “uttered” in to existence by a multiplicity of voices-voices often overheard from the mouths of unseen characters. These voices spin one wild tale upon another and the resultant imaginary worlds are superimposed onto the streets of Prague where they create yet another fictional reality. In these tales we detect Kafka’s peculiar brand of humor and strangeness, but none of the existential anxiety associated with the Prague German writer. Instead, Hrabal’s “subversive” quality resides in the individual tales themselves, in their ability to speak from below during a time of silence imposed from above. It is the subversive power of story telling in “Kafkarna” that will be the focus of this paper.