Before man-sized insects and ghastly bureaucratic punishments, he had rather different plans for his writingby Tim Martin / December 12, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
In the summer of 1911, on holiday in Switzerland, Franz Kafka was working on a string of bestsellers. With his friend Max Brod, the 28-year-old writer devised the plan for a quintessentially modern set of books, which could be “translated into every language,” would “energise the whole person” and would provide their creators with “a business venture worth millions.” None of them would contain the man-sized insects, opaque legal machinations, ghastly bureaucratic punishments or anything else for which the name Kafka later became famous. Instead, they were to be a series of stripped-down travel guides for tourists on a budget, which Kafka and Brod intended to call Billig, or On the Cheap.
Armed with a volume of Billig, frugal travellers would enjoy straight talk from Kafka and Brod about decent hotels, fast trains and clean brothels as they travelled “On the Cheap Through Italy,” “On the Cheap Through Switzerland,” “On the Cheap in Paris” or “On the Cheap in the Bohemian Spas and Prague.” “NB the candour of our guide,” wrote Brod in his business plan, next to excited notes on buying “pineapples and madeleines” in the French capital and blagging…