“The Trial” Battle Over Kafka’s legacy ends in Jerusalem 95 years after his death

Kafkaesque: “characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world.” Kafkaesque events have become commonplace in the everyday world and for those thrown into the legal system. Average citizens are caught up in the Kafkaesque nightmare of the judicial system. That is why arguably Kafka’s most well known book is “The Trial.”

New York Times 8.8.2019

JERUSALEM — Franz Kafka liked to doodle and draw.

In one of his notebooks — revealed to the public for the first time in Jerusalem on Wednesday — he sketched a man lying in bed, perhaps depicting his own terminal illness and auguring the end. The drawing was a fitting, if grim, coda to a yearslong, labyrinthine legal battle over the author’s legacy nearly a century after his untimely death.

The notebook and materials arrived recently at the National Library of Israel from Zurich, where they had been held in safe deposit boxes. They are the final batch of a vast trove of original texts and manuscripts by the celebrated German-speaking, Jewish writer that had been entrusted to a friend.

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The retrieval of this last portion of the archive from a Swiss bank vault is the culmination of more than a decade of tortuous courtroom wrangling over the writer’s papers that many have likened to a Kafka novel, as well as a more scholarly argument between Israel and Germany over the ownership of the cultural legacy and its rightful home.

Kafka left the documents to his close friend and literary executor, Max Brod, upon the writer’s death from tuberculosis, at 40, in 1924.

Among the dozens of manila file folders unveiled Wednesday were hundreds of documents, most of which have already been published, including a typed version of Kafka’s anguished “Letter to His Father,” which Mr. Brod said Kafka had typed himself; three handwritten versions of Kafka’s “Wedding Preparations in the Country,” one of his earliest works, from around 1907, each rendition more concise than the last, until 58 pages were boiled down to five; and postcards that Kafka wrote to Mr. Brod just weeks before the writer died.

David Blumberg, the chairman of the National Library of Israel, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday, “Cultural assets have a tendency to evaporate if efforts aren’t made to preserve them.”

The Kafka papers are due to be digitized, and construction is underway for a larger building to house the library’s treasures, he said, adding that the intention is to make the archive accessible “for the good of the public in Israel and abroad.”