They were born in what is now the Czech Republic. But Gustav Mahler is renowned as an Austrian composer, Rainer Maria Rilke as a German poet and Franz Kafka as a Jewish writer who wrote in German.
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Mahler’s birth in Jihlava (German: Iglau) in eastern Bohemia, the Internet site of the Czech president’s office praises him as a world-famous “Czech” composer and conductor. In the daily Právo, his publicist Jiří Franěk bemoans how little the Czechs know about the famous non-Czech-speaking personalities born in their country.
“Mahler now has his monument. But things are far worse for one of our most celebrated authors – Rainer Maria Rilke. In the US, which does not exactly have the best educational system, practically every high school student is familiar with him. Here in the Czech Republic he’s almost unknown. He was born in Heinrichsgasse in Prague, but wrote in German…. The same would be true of Kafka if [the Germanist] Eduard Goldstücker hadn’t spread his fame. It’s not about the monuments, but what we owe to our compatriots who were perhaps not full-blooded Czechs, and even more what we owe ourselves. It is embarrassing not to know that someone was born just around the corner who the ‘rest of the world’ honours.”
Source: Eurotopics, July 8, 2010