Israeli museum wants Kafka manuscript from Germany
Last Updated: Sunday, October 25, 2009 | 1:49 PM ET
Israel's National Library is demanding that a German museum hand over the original manuscript of Franz Kafka's novel The Trial.
The library says the manuscript — sold at auction for $2 million US in 1990 to a book dealer acting on behalf of the German government — should be returned to Israel in accordance with the wishes of the late Max Brod, the executor of Kafka's will.
The manuscript is currently stored at the Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach.
Kafka died from tuberculosis in 1924, leaving instructions to Brod: "Dearest Max, My last request: Everything I leave behind me [is] to be burned unread."
Instead, Brod decided to publish Kafka's novels The Trial, The Castle and Amerika.
When Brod fled Prague in 1939 as the Nazis approached, he took a suitcase of Kafka documents to Tel Aviv.
He would later donate manuscripts of The Castle and Amerika to Oxford University. Brod kept the original of The Trial for himself.
Brod's will in dispute
When Brod died in 1968, he left a will that is still in dispute. That's because Brod had a relationship with his assistant Esther Hoffe.
Over the years, Esther Hoffe sold some of the Kafka papers, including the manuscript for The Trial. When she died two years ago, she left the remaining papers to her daughters, Eva and Ruti.
The National Library says Esther Hoffe should not have sold any of those papers.
"The National Library of Israel, which is a library of the Jewish people too, understands that in the will of Dr. Max Brod he asks that these documents should be placed in a public archive and he names the National Library as the first option for that," Meir Heller, the library's lawyer, told The Observer newspaper.
Heller said the library would compensate the German archive.
Wading into the controversy is Yeshayahu Etgar, lawyer for the Hoffe sisters.
Etgar said Esther Hoffe was entitled to sell The Trial at auction and says it's wrong for the library to try to bring it back.
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