Franz Kafka confidant’s documents handed to Israel

Franz Kafka confidant’s documents handed to Israel

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Germany, Franz Kafka, Max Brod, Switzerland, Tel Aviv, Israel

German authorities today handed over to Israel some 5,000 documents kept by a confidant of Franz Kafka, a trove whose plight could have been plucked from one of the author’s surreal stories.

The papers returned include a postcard from Kafka from 1910 and personal documents kept by Max Brod, which experts say provide a window into Europe’s literary and cultural scene in the early 20th century.

They are among some 40,000 documents, including manuscripts, correspondence, notebooks and other writings that once belonged to Brod, which are being brought together again in Israel’s National Library.

They had ended up in bank vaults in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, a Tel Aviv apartment and in a storage facility in Wiesbaden, Germany, where police found them tucked among forged Russian avant-garde artworks.

“I think he (Kafka) would really be amused,” said National Library archivist Stefan Litt, who helped identify the papers recovered in Germany.

“He couldn’t invent by himself a better plot.”

After the formal handover of the documents from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police at the Israeli ambassador’s residence in Berlin, National Library chairman David Blumberg pledged to make the whole collection available to everybody.

“Everything will be published, everything will be digitised, so we can share it with the world,” he said.

Kafka, a Bohemian Jew from Prague who lived for a while in Berlin, was close friends with Brod, himself an accomplished writer.

Shortly before his untimely death at 40 of tuberculosis in 1924, Kafka bequeathed his writings to Brod, reportedly telling him to burn them all unread.

Instead, Brod published much of the collection, including the novels The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika, helping to posthumously establish Kafka as one of the great authors of the 20th century.

He also brought “Kafkaesque” into the English language to describe bizarre, illogical or nightmarish situations like the ones Kafka wrote about.

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