Cover

Kafka himself could hardly have imagined a trial like this one. For the first time since 1945, reports Die Zeit, German and Israeli cultural institutions are wrangling over the legacy of the “most important Jewish writer in the German language”.

The bone of contention: Franz Kafka’s correspondence and manuscripts, kept in a safe in Zurich. Kafka had left them to his friend, the poet Max Brod, who, after bringing them to Israel, passed them on to his assistant, Esther Hoffe. Hoffe, in turn, auctioned some of the papers, before her demise, to the German Literary Archives, and her daughter Chava now wants to sell the rest.

The state of Israel now lays claim to the documents as national cultural property and has denied Chava Hoffe access to her inheritance. In a Tel Aviv court, the Jerusalem National Library is now demanding that the manuscripts be repatriated from Switzerland to Israel, and that the German Literary Archives return the manuscript of The Trial. It was Max Brod who started the whole imbroglio when Kafka died in 1924, observes Die Zeit, “by not burning the manuscripts in accordance with Kafka’s last wishes”.