Franz Kafka’s World
Writers, Painters, Artists from Old Prague
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Božena Němcovás Grossmutter (Babička)

In her Babička (The Grandmother), which was published in 1855, the Czech author Božena Němcová (1820–1862) created one of the best female characters in world literature and the most important prose work in Czech literature. The novel portrays the country habits and customs of Bohemia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and depicts the people the author encountered during her childhood: priests, teachers, maids, farm workers, millers, foresters, and so on. Central to the storyline, located in eastern Bohemia, is a grandmother, who personifies an ideal of maternal care with her simple wisdom, goodness, and love.

Franz Kafka must have taken this work, which he kept in his library next to a volume of Němcová’s selected correspondence, to be an idyll, a greeting from a bygone age. But he loved the novel, emphatically recommended it to his sisters to read, and rhapsodized over Němcová’s word-music as decisive, passionate, mellifluous, and full of far-sighted wisdom. 

This shows that the poor are not as totally impoverished as we think; in reality they have more of paradise than we imagine or have ourselves.

K. F. Gutzkow