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Kafka's legacy

June 30, 2015

Franz Kafka wanted his manuscripts destroyed. By a twist of fate, they've been spared. And now a court in Tel Aviv has decided they should go to Israel's National Library.

A page from Franz Kafka's "The Trial," at the Literaturachiv Marbach, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

On Monday (29.06.2015), Tel Aviv's district court reaffirmed a decision from 2012. It once again rejected Eva Hoffe's claim that she should inherit Franz Kafka's original manuscripts, based on her connection to the man who refused to destroy the Jewish writer's documents.

Before he died in 1924, Franz Kafka wanted his friend and publisher Max Brod to burn all of his unpublished writings. Brod, however, did not follow Kafka's final wish. Instead he published "The Trial," "Metamorphosis" and other works in the following years.

When Brod left Prague for Tel Aviv in 1939, fleeing from the Nazi regime, he took Kafka's original documents with him in his suitcase.

Brod died in Tel Aviv in 1968. According to his will, the documents were to be given to his secretary Esther Hoffe. She then sold some of them, including the manuscript for "The Trial" to the Marbach Literature Archive for $2 million.

Hoffe kept many more documents in safe deposit boxes in Israel and Switzerland, and her daughter Eva Hoffe inherited all of them.

Brod's testament was somewhat ambiguous, since it also ordered Hoffe to hand over the documents to a Jewish library of her choice. The court ruled along these lines and found that Hoffe had no right to re-sell the documents. It remains to be seen whether Hoffe will appeal the ruling.

The Marbach Literature Archive in Germany had hoped to receive the entire collection, since it had already purchased "The Trial," but Monday's ruling eliminated that possibility.

ct/kbm (dpa)

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