Israel National Library wins ownership of Kafka archive

Israel National Library wins ownership of Kafka archive

After five years of sometimes Kafkaesque legal debates, the Israeli National Library has won ownership of more than 10,000 previously unpublished manuscripts written by Franz Kafka.

Kafka, a Jewish writer who lived in Prague, is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, reported Xinhua.

Two sisters in Tel-Aviv, Eva Hoffe and Ruth Wiesler, had received the archive from their mother, Esther Hoffe.

Esther was the secretary of Kafka's long-time friend, Max Brod. After their mother's death in 2007, the sisters sued for private ownership of the archive.

Although Kafka passed on his writings to Brod before his death, asking for their destruction, Brod published and edited several of the manuscripts, and kept others with him.

In 1939, Brod fled the Nazi invasion in Europe to Israel, where he died in 1968. He left Kafka's writings in the possession of his secretary, Hoffe, and asked in his will that the manuscripts will be given to the Israeli National Library.

"This case, complicated by passions, was argued in court for a long time across seas, lands and times," wrote Tel Aviv District Court Judge Talia Pardo-Kuplemen in her decision.

"Not every day does the opportunity befall a judge to delve into the depth of history as it unfolds before him."

The Hoffe sisters and their inheritors claim that the documents were a personal gift from their mother, which they planned to sell to the national German Library, who was interested in the scripts.

However, "due to the strict requirements of proof required, I do not believe that the plaintiffs (the Hoffe sisters) have met the requirements", Pardo-Kuplemen wrote. "The gift was never carried out to completion. One can determine that the Kafka manuscripts, like the Brod estate, were not given to them as gifts but for safe-keeping," the judge wrote.

"I hope that the inheritance of the late Brod will finally find its place according to the wishes of the deceased," Pardo-Kuplemen concluded.

Despite her loss in court, Hoffe will be entitled for royalties from any future publication of the documents.

Meir Heller, who represented the National Library at the trial, told the Ha'aretz daily Sunday that the court ruling was "a decisive victory for the National Library. All the library's claims were accepted. The court ruled that the estate in its entirety -- including the Kafka and Brod manuscripts -- are to be bequeathed to the public and will be transferred to the National Library".

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