May 23, 2019

Thousands of Franz Kafka’s confidant’s personal documents recovered


File this away as: “Hey, this is cool.” The Associated Press reports that Germany has handed over 5,000 personal documents owned by Franz Kafka’s confidant, Max Brod. The documents range from letters to a postcard from Kafka himself, dated 1910.

Recovered by German authorities, Brod’s papers were handed over to Israel this past Tuesday. They accompany the rest of Brod’s and Kafka’s documents, including manuscripts and notebooks, and act as a window into the life and mind of a surrealist master.

Stefan Litt, archivist of the humanist collection of Israel’s National Library, stressed the importance of these archives:

I think he (Kafka) would really be amused … He couldn’t invent by himself a better plot. This is an important chapter in Max Brod’s estate. And it’s always good for researchers to have as complete a picture as possible. We’re happy it’s in safe hands.

The path of Kafka’s unpublished work is legendary nowadays. Kafka wanted his manuscripts to be destroyed after he died. As his executor, Brod was given the task of doing so. He didn’t and instead published some of the most important works of literature of all time, including The Trial, The Castle, and countless stories.

Now it seems the same is happening again, this time with Brod’s own archives being taken and preserved rather than lost or destroyed. Of course, if people always listened and did what they were told, the very idea of Kafkaeseque may never have existed. Sometimes taking the riskier choice is worth it.



Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.