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The Trial’s over: Kafka papers to be transferred to Israeli library

Published time: October 15, 2012 08:21
Edited time: October 15, 2012 12:21
Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

Unseen works by Franz Kafka the creator of “The Metamorphosis” and his long time friend Max Brod will be handed to Israel’s national library after nearly half a century in private hands and four years of litigation, an Israeli court has ruled.

­The writings by the Prague-based Jewish novelist who wrote in German will be put on display and later online. Their ownership had been in dispute after the Israeli National Library laid claim to them. The two sisters who had inherited the literary collection from their mother insisted on keeping them.

The women, Eva Hoffe and Ruth Wiesler, had inherited the documents from Brod's secretary, and had been storing them in a Tel Aviv apartment and bank vaults.

The ruling by the Tel Aviv District Family Court means the collection will be transferred to the library in Jerusalem. It had argued that Max Brod had bequeathed the manuscripts to the library in his will.

Despite the ruling, Hoffe will be entitled to royalties from any future publication of the documents.

The collection is said to feature Brod's personal diary as well as Kafka's writings, including correspondence the two friends kept with other writers, which could shed new light on one of literature's most influential figures.

Kafka gave his writings to Brod shortly before he died from tuberculosis in 1924, instructing his close friend to burn them unread. Brod didn’t follow the instructions and published most of the material, including the celebrated novels "The Trial," "The Castle" and "Amerika."

"For decades these manuscripts were hidden and now we can display and preserve them under proper conditions," Aviad Stollman, Judaica Collections Curator at the National Library told Israel's Channel 2 TV.

"There are 40 thousand pages, a tremendous amount," he added. "Whoever loves Kafka will be able to see his signature and notes and crossings outs … We hope the material will be on the library's website soon."

The German Literary Archive was not part of the legal proceedings but had backed the sisters' claims, hoping to purchase the manuscripts and arguing that they belong in Germany.

"I hope that the Israeli National Library will provide open access to the material for the public as soon as possible," Ulrich Raulff, who heads the archive, said. "Researchers have been waiting for the material with excitement for years."