At long last - and I mean decades, not just the four years of this trial - manuscripts which his friend Max Brod spirited out of Prague, on the last train before the Nazis captured the city, are to be made public. It might not please Kafka. It probably would please Brod. But it certainly pleases me.
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Israel court orders Kafka manuscripts be transferred to national library
Documents of one of the greatest 20th century writers were kept in safety deposit boxes out of the reach of the public and of researchers; court ruling brings five year saga to end.
By Ofer Aderet
A collection of manuscripts written by Franz Kafka and Max Brod will finally be transferred from private hands to the Israeli National Library in Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv District Family Court ruled on Friday, bringing an end to a long and complicated legal proceeding.
Judge Talia Pardo Kupelman wrote in her ruling that she had taken the historical significance of the case under consideration: "This case complicated by passions, was argued in court for quite a long time across seas, lands, and times. Not every day, and most definitely not as a matter of routine, does the opportunity befall a judge to delve into the depth of history as it unfolds before him in piecemeal fashion," she added.
The trial opened "a window into the lives, desires, frustrations and the souls of two of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century," she wrote.
The crux of the trial was based on the insistence of Tel Aviv sisters Eva Hoffe and Ruth Wiesler to maintain their decades-long private hold on the vast collection of rare documents, which they had inherited from their mother, Esther Hoffe, Brod's secretary.
Their position was backed by the German Literature Archive, which claimed that the manuscripts belong in Germany and demanded the right to purchase them from the sisters.
The National Library and the Ward of the State, which represented Israel in court, took issue with claim, arguing that Brod - Kafka's close friend – had bequeathed the manuscripts to the National Library in his will.
Kafka, born in Prague, is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. After he died in 1924, his friend Max Brod collected, edited and published his works - despite Kafka's own instructions in his will ordering the manuscripts to be destroyed.
In 1939, when the Nazis invaded Prague, where the two were from, Brod escaped to Israel. When he died in 1968, his manuscripts together with those of Kafka were transferred to his secretary Esther Hoffe.