In Search of Odradek

Throughout the year, starting on April 1, 2024. A game to be played in the streets of the Prague Jewish Quarter
“In Search of Odradek” is based on one of Kafka’s short stories. It is an outdoor game that involves looking for a mythical creature – while getting to know the Prague Jewish Quarter as it originally looked before its urban renewal.

“In Search of Odradek” is an outdoor game based on one of Kafka’s short stories. It involves a search for a mythical creature about whose appearance, purpose and movements in the Prague Jewish Quarter we know relatively little from Kafka’s work. The game invites visitors of all ages to explore the Jewish Quarter as it originally looked (before its urban renewal) and to set out in search of this mysterious creature.

The game is based on one of Kafka’s short stories. It is set in the period during the redevelopment of the Jewish Quarter – at the time in which Franz Kafka lived, in a place that actually no longer exists. As every town changes and old buildings are replaced by new ones, residents come and go. As the urban layers overlap, so do the stories that take place – or may have taken place – there. The Jewish Quarter was a thoroughly tangled network of alleys, streets, courtyards, passageways and houses, all standing cheek by jowl and packed close together.

This area was actually a town within a town. Its  twists and turns awakened the imagination. Some people were afraid, others were enthused, but no one was left indifferent. Over a hundred years ago, however, local politicians decided that it was time for Prague to rid itself of its antiquity and opacity. The Jewish Quarter was to be brought into line with the 20th century. The demolition of most of the Jewish Quarter was appealingly termed “renewal”. The idiosyncratic alleys, nooks and crannies had to give way to a dull, uncluttered and regular network of streets lined with houses that look old today, but were actually in fashion a century ago. Many people in Prague felt that they would be losing one of the most intrinsic components of their city with the disappearance of the Jewish Quarter; that its history would vanish, as would the children’s games that were played there, the legends, the spirits, and the fantastical creatures that inhabited this place. 

The Czech-German-Jewish writer Franz Kafka also lived here. He too was inspired by the tortuous and unpredictable nature of this place, which fed his imagination. He walked its streets, looking around with an imaginative eye, noticing things overlooked by other people. Perhaps he saw more because this is where he had played as a child, which in some ways he still was. Among the things he noticed was a creature that, although not in the realm of legend, was perfectly suited to the Jewish Quarter – a rather unassuming little being called Odradek. According to Kafka’s description, Odradek “resides alternately in the attic, in the stairwell, in the corridors, in the entrance hall”, and is “extraordinarily nimble and impossible to catch”. Odradek is the perfect guide to a town that no longer exists, as this creature knows it like the back of its hand. So what better reason to set out in pursuit of this fascinating being?

Take a wander around the Prague district of Josefov and discover its original character.

Instructions for the game In Search of Odradek (in czech language)    Download

Photo: View of House No. 27 (Mojžíš Reach’s Junk Shop) in Josefovská Street before its demolition in 1908 ©City of Prague Archives, Photography Collection, Call N0. VI 47/45