15 Oct 2012

Court ruling issued on Kafka papers

8:03 am on 15 October 2012

An Israeli court ruled on Sunday that a collection of writings by Franz Kafka is to be transferred to Israel's national library.

The papers had been held by Eva Hoffe and Ruth Wiesler, two sisters. They argued that they legally inherited the documents from their mother, Esther Hoffe, who was secretary to Kafka's close friend and executor, Max Brod.

But the court ruled that Brod, had ordered in his will that the majority of the documents he had given to his secretary should go to a public archive.

Papers in the collection are believed to include manuscripts by Brod that could shed new light on the Jewish, German-language author's life and times in Prague.

Kafka's The Trial, The Castle and Amerika were published after his death, when Brod ignored the writer's dying wish to burn all unpublished work.

In 1939 Brod fled the Nazis, taking the last train out of Prague with a suitcase of Kafka papers under his arm. After Brod's death in Israel in 1968, the archive was passed to Mrs Hoffe.

She placed some of the writings in safe deposit boxes in Tel Aviv and Zurich and the rest in her apartment, fuelling a mystery about their content.

Mrs Hoffe died in 2007. Her gift to her daughters was challenged in court by the State of Israel, which said the writings should be in the public domain.

Kafka died in 1924 at the age of 40.