Kafka hid for a long time at your fingertips after a series of tests


JERUSALEM (AP) – A hidden treasure trove of unpublished works by Franz Kafka may soon be revealed after a decade-long battle over his literary heritage that drew comparisons with some of his surrealist tales.

A district court in Zurich confirmed the Israeli verdicts in the case last week, ruling that several vaults in the Swiss city could be opened and its contents sent to the National Library of Israel.

At stake are untouched roles that could shed new light on one of the darkest figures in literature, a German-speaking Bohemian Jew from Prague whose cultural legacy has been hotly contested between Israel and Germany.

Although the exact contents of the coffers remain unknown, experts speculated that the cache could include endings of some of Kafka's major works, many of which were unfinished when they were published after his death.

The Israeli Supreme Court has already removed an Israeli family from its collection of Kafka manuscripts, which were hidden in Israeli bank vaults and a miserable, cat-filled apartment in Tel Aviv. But the Swiss decision would complete the acquisition of nearly all of his well-known works, after years of lengthy legal battles against his rightful owners.

The saga could have been written by the own Kafka, whose name was known like an adjective to describe absurd situations involving inscrutable legal processes. Kafka was known for his tales of ordinary protagonists crushed by mysterious authorities or twisted by unknown shame. In "The Judgment," for example, a bank employee is subjected to excruciating court proceedings without ever being informed of the charges against him.

"The absurdity of the judgments is that it was on a property that nobody knew what it contained," said Benjamin Balint, a researcher at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem and author of the book "The Last Judgment of Kafka." "which tells the story." The lawsuit may be ending, but the issues of your cultural heritage and heritage will remain with us for a long time. "

Kafka bequeathed his writings to Max Brod, his longtime friend, editor and publisher, shortly before his death from tuberculosis in 1924 at the age of 40. He instructed his protege not to read it.

Brod ignored his wishes and published most of what he possessed-including the novels "The Judgment," "The Castle," and "Amerika." These works have made Kafka, little known before, one of the most celebrated and influential. writers of the twentieth century.

But Brod, who smuggled some of the manuscripts to pre-declare Israel when he fled the Nazis in 1938, did not publish everything. After his death in 1968, Brod left his personal secretary, Esther Hoffe, in charge of his literary property and instructed her to transfer the papers of Kafka to an academic institution.

Instead, over the next four decades, Hoffe kept the papers hidden and sold some of the items for hefty amounts. In 1988, for example, Hoffe auctioned the original manuscript of "The Trial" at Sotheby's in London. It went to $ 1.8 million for the German Literature Archive in Marbach, north of Stuttgart.

When Hoffe died in 2008 at age 101, she left the collection for her two daughters, Eva Hoffe and Ruth Wiesler, both Holocaust survivors like her, who considered Brod a father figure and her legitimate inheritance file. Both also died, leaving Wiesler's daughters to continue fighting for the rest of the collection.

Jeshayah Etgar, the daughter's lawyer, underestimated the importance of possible discoveries in Zurich, saying that they were probably replicas of manuscripts that Hoffe had already sold. Regardless, he said the decision was the continuation of a process in which "individual property rights were trampled underfoot without any legal justification." He said his clients legitimately inherited the jobs and called the state's apprehension of his property "shameful" and "first degree robbery."

The National Library of Israel states that the Kafka documents are "cultural goods" belonging to the Jewish people. Near the end of his life, Kafka thought of leaving Prague and moving to pre-state Israel. He took Hebrew classes with a native of Jerusalem who eventually donated his student's vocabulary notebook to the library. In recent years, the library has also taken possession of several other manuscripts that the courts had ordered Hoffe's descendants to hand over.

"We welcome the trial of the court in Switzerland, which corresponded to all judgments made previously by the Israeli courts," said David Blumberg, president of the National Library of Israel, a non-profit and non-governmental body. "The trial of the Swiss court completes the preparation of the National Library of Israel to accept all of Max Brod's literary property, which will be properly treated and made available to the general public in Israel and in the world."

Other scholars question Kafka's adoption by Israel, noting that he was in conflict over his own Judaism. The German Literature Archive, for example, took the side of Hoffe's heirs and intended to buy the collection itself, arguing that German-language writings belong to Germany. Dietmar Jaegle, a file clerk, said he would not comment on Zurich's verdict since it has not yet seen him.

Balint warned that the contents of the hidden file may not meet everyone's expectations.

"It is very unlikely that we will discover an unknown masterpiece of Kafka, but these are things of value," said Balint, noting the fierce competition over any original Kafka material. "There is something about the strange aura of Kafka that is drawn to it."


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