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Brod and Kafka papers to be deposited at the NLI

Franz Kafka

Following eight years of protracted legal proceedings, the Tel Aviv District Court has ruled that the National Library of Israel is the rightful home for the personal papers of author Max Brod, which includes one of the world's most significant and expansive collections of letters and manuscripts written by Franz Kafka. Brod, an accomplished writer and composer in his own right, was a confidant of Kafka's and is in large part responsible for his success as one of the 20th century's most influential writers, having published many of Kafka's works after the author's death in 1924. Brod held onto the papers until he passed away in 1968, when they wound up in the hands of his former secretary, Eva Hoffe, who bequeathed them to her daughters upon her own death in 2007. The court has now ruled that the papers must be transferred to the National Library of Israel, where, in accordance with Brod's wishes, they can be properly preserved and made available to the public.

Max Brod

While the contents of nearly a dozen Israeli and Swiss bank vaults in which the Hoffe family stored many of the papers is relatively well-documented, the total extent of the Brod papers remains a mystery. According to National Library of Israel expert archivist Dr. Stefan Litt, "The big question now is: What will we find in the Hoffe family's Tel Aviv apartment, and what else may have been hidden elsewhere throughout the world?"


 

​The known material that the National Library will receive includes many handwritten letters from Kafka to Brod, touching on some of the most intimate details of his life, manuscripts of some of Kafka's works (such as "A Country Doctor", and "Wedding Preparations in the Country"), the Paris diaries, drawings by Kafka and many manuscripts of Brod's works and correspondence with other notable figures. Although Brod published the content of some of these papers during his own lifetime, the National Library has now been entrusted with the task of preserving these materials for the public benefit and making them accessible for users in the digital age. According to National Library Chairman David Blumberg, "The renewed National Library of Israel plays a vital role in opening access to its treasures for the public in Israel and internationally, which it will also do in the case of the Max Brod archive. The National Library, a non-profit institution that provides free and open access to the cultural assets of the Jewish people, will persist in its efforts to ensure that found treasures such as these are deposited in its collections."

 

As soon as the executors of the Brod estate complete the mandatory court-ordered procedures, the National Library team of archive experts will begin work on the critical task of professionally reviewing and organizing the collection. The treasures hidden among Max Brod's personal papers – many of which may be waiting to be discovered – will find a suitable home among the collections of the National Library of Israel, where, in honoring Max Brod's wishes, they will be made available to the public and perhaps shed additional light on one of the 20th century's most influential writers.