There would have been a lot of trouble saved if Kafka's best friend had burned all his manuscripts. But Kafka asked his friend, Brod, specifically because he knew the chore would not be done. And if Brod's express wishes that these manuscripts were to be placed in a reputable library or archive at his own death had been followed ... well. However, both men left to others what they should have done themselves.
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Kafka's Final Absurdist Tale Plays Out In Tel Aviv
by SHEERA FRENKEL
Franz Kafka, who died in 1924, studied Hebrew in Germany during the last two years of his life. This is one of eight notebooks of his Hebrew studies that are part of the Israeli National Library's collection. Israel and an elderly Israeli woman are wrangling over Kafka documents that may include unpublished manuscripts.
Franz Kafka published just a few short stories and a novella during his lifetime, yet he was considered one of the 20th century's most influential writers.
The rest of his work was largely kept secret, and literary scholars have long wondered what gems they might find among Kafka's papers.
The answer may ultimately lie on Tel Aviv's Spinoza Street, inside a small, squat apartment building covered with dirty, pinkish stucco that looks like it's seen better days.
Franz Kafka (shown here circa 1905) is considered one of the 20th century's most influential writers. Before his death in 1924, he had published only short stories and a single novella,The Metamorphosis.
The story of how Kafka's papers made their way into an apartment owned by a self-professed cat lady, Eva Hoffe, seems like a story only Kafka himself could have written.
The state of Israel and Hoffe, who's in her late 70s, are locked in a battle over those papers, and Hoffe has not been willing to allow outsiders to see them.
For the past 40 years, the women of the Hoffe family have held an assortment of Kafka's primary drafts, letters, drawings and, possibly, unpublished manuscripts.
Journalist Ofer Aderet, with the Haaretznewspaper, says the women have guarded them closely, and to this day no one is sure exactly what they contain. "It's a big secret. It's the $1 million question," he says.
Aderet has been following the three-year court case over the ownership of the papers. The legal wrangling has pitted the Hoffe family against Israel's National Library. Aderet says that within the month, the courts are expected to issue their ruling.
Kafka Wanted His Papers Burned
Anat Perry is an academic and former researcher on the Kafka case for the National Library. The story, she says, begins with a brown suitcase packed by Max Brod, a writer best known as Kafka's friend and biographer.
The author Max Brod was Kafka's friend, literary agent and biographer. Kafka wanted him to burn his papers upon his death. But Brod published some of the work and bequeathed the remainder to his secretary, Esther Hoffe (shown here).
Kafka, who died in June 1924, wanted all his papers burned.