Trial over "The Trial": Kafka's Letters Headed to Israeli Court
The battle over the literary booty is on its way to Tel Aviv Family Court. The letters currently sit in two bank vaults, though scholars are worried that they aren't being stored properly. They see in the letters a potential treasure map: they may indicate the location of some notebooks confiscated from Kafka by the Gestapo. The issue became a legal matter when the sisters sought to ratify their mother's will, at which point the Israeli government became involved. Esther Hoffe only allowed a handful of researchers to view the letters and didn't make them available to the public -- a sore spot for interested scholars.
Had Kafka's wishes been respected, there would be no problem right now. The letters would have been burned.
The issue for the court to decide involves whose will to respect: Hoffe's or Brod's. Israel's National Library claims that Brod indicated that Hoffe should turn the letters over to the library during her lifetime. Yet, not only did this not happen, but Hoffe sold one of the documents, a handwritten manuscript of "The Trial" via Sotheby's in 1988 (for $1.98 million). The daughters side with their mother's will, which gives them ownership of the documents.
We won't know how this turns out until January, which is when the court will convene. Needless to say, if Kafka were alive to sit in the gallery, he'd get a chuckle at the irony.