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Franz Kafka archive reclaimed by Israel national library

By August 8, 2019No Comments

Source : The Guardian

Missing author’s papers return to Tel Aviv collection initiated by Max Brod in 1939


Israel’s national library has unveiled a missing batch of Franz Kafka’s papers, ending more than a decade of legal wrangling between Israel and Germany over the author’s legacy.

As he battled with tuberculosis in an Austrian sanatorium, Kafka, a German-speaking Jew from Prague, asked his close friend Max Brod to destroy all his letters and writings.

After Kafka’s death, in 1924, Brod, also Jewish, felt he could not carry out his friend’s wishes and in 1939 fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for Tel Aviv, carrying the writer’s papers in a suitcase.

Brod published many of the works and played a key role in establishing Kafka’s success as a key literary figure of the 20th century.

Brod, who was born in Prague, died in 1968. His death ushered in “the Kafkaesque story” of the Brod archive, according to Vered Lion-Yerushalmi, spokeswoman for the library. The hoard was split up. Then part of it was stolen and offered for sale in Germany.

Since March 2008 the national library has been fighting to reassemble the collection and house it in Israel, the library’s chairman, David Blumberg, told a press conference on Wednesday. He said: “The national library claimed the transfer of the archive to it because that was Brod’s wish in his will. We started a process that took 11 years until we completed it two weeks ago.”

In May, following the ruling of a court in Wiesbaden, Germany handed over thousands of papers and manuscripts which Israel said had been stolen 10 years ago in Tel Aviv and later offered for sale to the German Literary Archive in Marbach, and to private collectors.

Other parts of the collection previously had been located in a run-down apartment full of cats in Tel Aviv, and stored in a disused refrigerator, and in bank deposit boxes in the city. The fifth and final cache was located in a vault at the Zurich headquarters of UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, and released after a Swiss court ruling.

“We brought from Switzerland 60 files which coined original materials,” said Stefan Litt, the national library’s archivist and curator of its humanities collection. He said he was grateful to UBS for its “heartwarming” cooperation.

Litt said that most of the material had already been published by Brod but the correspondence between the two friends and Kafka’s other notes, diaries and reflections, shed valuable light on the writer’s personality.

“We have no literary surprises here,” he said. “But without Max Brod we would not really know who Kafka was.”

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