Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
The Schmooze

A Lonely Golem

Earlier this week, Matthue Roth wrote about why kids love scary stories. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:

I was trying to figure out how to get people to buy “My First Kafka” from me directly instead of, say, Amazon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy when anyone buys my book from anywhere, but it’s a nice feeling when you actually sell the copy yourself. (Also, you make slightly more than the 43 cents per copy or whatever that you get from your publisher, but that’s a different story.)

So I wrote this tiny mini-book. It’s a short story, and it’s called “The Last Golem in Prague.” It was an 11th-hour creation in every sense. The books had just arrived in the mail, people were actually buying them, which I couldn’t (and still mostly can’t) believe, and I had to send out something. For months I’d sat in front of my notebook, page blank, wondering what sort of story I should write for whatever people might buy my weird children’s book.

And then, at 11:59 or so, everything clicked together.

Here’s what I wasn’t thinking when I started writing:

a) I should write something that sounds like Kafka. b) I should write a story for adults, since mostly it’ll be adults buying a copy for children and they deserve something of their OWN to read, too, dammit. c) I should read something Kafka would want to read.

…and a bunch of other stuff, I wasn’t thinking, either. What I was thinking was how I used to live in Prague, in a student dorm that had a country & western dance club in the basement, and a convent surrounded by vast woods next door.

Now, I never went down to the basement club (unfortunately), and I never went to the convent (even more unfortunately), and just saying either of those things in a story is way too unreal-sounding to be true. You can’t actually write it because nobody will believe it.

So I kept the details to myself, and I wrote a story that starts when I hear the pounding noise of the club and go down to investigate. And I try to dance. I won’t tell you much more about the story, but it does feature my two favorite themes in the world (loneliness/isolation/existential peril and girls) and there is a golem involved.

I pulled back when I finished. I realized that maybe I hadn’t written the sort of story that Kafka would have written himself, but there was more than a little bit of him that got sucked in. In the end, the story wasn’t about the place at all, but the feelings and the thoughts and the experiences.


*Matthue Roth’s newest book is “My First Kafka: Runaways, Rodents, and Giant Bugs.” He lives in Brookyn with his family and keeps a secret diary at www.matthue.com. *


The Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the reading, writing and publishing of Jewish literature. For more Jewish literary blog posts, reviews of Jewish books and book club resources, and to learn about awards and conferences, please visit www.jewishbookcouncil.org.

MyJewishLearning.com is the leading transdenominational website of Jewish information and education. Visit My Jewish Learning for thousands of articles on Judaism, Jewish holidays, Jewish history and more.

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.