Thursday, 4 March 2010

KAfKA in Neukölln

For those who don't know, Neukölln is Berlin's dirty little secret. Ten years or so ago the press discovered the borough and drummed up a scandal: It's grubby, full of poor people and immigrants and violence lies in wait at every street corner. In the meantime, of course, gentrification has set in and you can now buy home-made organic cake and original artworks in between the bookmakers and pawn shops.

But those stubborn poor people just aren't going away. Which is why the local council launched the KAfKA initiative.

Posters in shop windows proudly proclaim: "KAfKA - I'm joining in!" Cue double-take. What exactly are these shopkeepers joining in with? Are they distributing free reading material to the downtrodden masses? Are they offering to guide the great unwashed through the labyrinth of unjust job centre bureaucracy? Are they metamorphosing into beetles?

Er, no. It appears they're refusing to sell alcohol to minors. In this case, KAfKA stands for "Kein Alkohol für Kinder Aktion" - the No Alcohol for Children Campaign. Financed mainly by the job centre, long-term unemployed people go out onto the mean streets of Neukölln to gently remind shopkeepers that it's actually illegal to sell alcohol to children. Not to mention unhealthy and immoral. And then they get a nice poster to warn off those bad kids. My extensive research tells me, however, that the project is at threat, with its funding cut. But maybe it's been rescued at the last minute, as I've recently seen the posters outside of Neukölln too.

Even more extensive research reveals that Franz Kafka himself would have approved of the project. Two quotes on the matter:

My peers, lately, have found companionship through means of intoxication - it makes them sociable. I, however, cannot force myself to use drugs to cheat on my loneliness - it is all that I have - and when the drugs and alcohol dissipate, will be all that my peers have as well.

Of course I do not drink alcohol, coffee or tea and usually don't eat any chocolate.

Apparently he was an outspoken opponent of alcohol abuse in Czech society. And just imagine the horror of Kafka's writing if he'd been drunk at the time. Or eating chocolate.


Lyn said...

Yeah, but he would say that wouldn't he... talk about fanning your self-image! and he wasn't too prudish to visit prostitutes, so what does that mean for Neukölln?!

britta said...

Have you heard of the recent law in Baden-Württemberg? Shops are now no longer allowed to sell alcohol to *anyone* between 10pm and 5am, nor are the filling (haha) stations.

kjd said...

So people have to start drinking at 5 am, right?

And Lyn, I forgot to mention all the brothels in Neukölln. Very fitting. A modern-day Kafka would feel quite at home there, I suspect.

Adrian Feuchtwanger said...

Enjoying your very informative and insightful blog! Thank you! Adrian Feuchtwanger and webmaster

crumpet0552 said...

Having just done 3 wonderful weeks analysing bits of Kafka in a Goethe Institut 20th century writers course here in Madrid, I have to say I'm disappointed that the great man was such a spoilsport. The writing suggests that he wasn't exactly RW Fassbinder, but still: no chocolate?
Anyway, like Herr Feuchtwanger, I'm very much enjoying the blog. Our next 3 weeks are devoted to the great BB himself. Any suggestions as to which plays/songs/poems to read (in my own time)? Years ago, I saw Kaukasische Kreidekreis and was incredibly moved (probably would have been much to BB's disgust...)

kjd said...

Not a huge BB expert, I have to say. Just don't read the deadly dull didactic stuff, all the rest is a boon.