The national library of Israel has recovered a cache of Franz Kafka’s papers after more than ten years of legal disputes between Israel and Germany. Thousands of papers were allegedly stolen and sold to the German Literary Archive in Marbach, Germany (as well as to private collectors). Israel’s national library began legal proceedings in March 2008 to recover the papers from Germany, and a German court agreed and handed over the files in May 2019.
Before Kafka died in 1924 he asked his friend Max Brod to destroy all his writing and letters. Brod agreed, but later decided to keep the writing, and fled the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, settling in Tel Aviv, Israel. Brod published much of Kafka’s work and was instrumental in popularizing him. Brod died in 1968 and reportedly wanted the archive to go to the Israeli national library – but the papers were split up, with some lost and stolen. The library has now recovered most of Kafka’s papers, with previous caches discovered in private apartments and safety deposit boxes in Tel Aviv, and 60 files recovered from a bank vault in Zurich following a Swiss court decision. The library’s director David Blumberg says there’s little in the way of unpublished material in the archive, apart from diaries and letters: “We have no literary surprises here, but without Max Brod, we would not really know who Kakfa was.”
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