It is an unpublished collection of handwritten letters and drawings by the Czech Jewish writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) which has just been made accessible to the general public by the National Library of Israel.
The institution that had recovered them after a long legal battle scanned them and posted them online. Among these documents are “About 120 drawings, more than 200 letters to the writer Max Brod, [dont] the original of his literary will asking his friend to burn all his writings ”, explained to Agence France-Presse Stefan Litt, curator in charge of the project.
This request, written by the author of Metamorphosis while he was fighting tuberculosis in an Austrian sanatorium, has been available to everyone since May 27.
After Kafka’s death in 1924, Max Brod decided not to destroy his friend’s writings. In 1939, he left Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for Tel Aviv and took some writings and drawings in his suitcases.
Max Brod then published numerous works by Kafka and contributed to the posthumous fame of the Czech writer, one of the main literary figures of the XXe century. After Brod’s death in 1968, a real legal soap opera “Kafkaïen” between several countries will shake up the university scene and tear apart the beneficiaries of the legacies of Kafka and Brod.
Two surprises in the treasure
Following a Swiss court decision, part of the archives, which was in a safe in Switzerland, was handed over in May 2019 to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.
Most of the documents recovered had already been published by Brod, such as the text of Kafka’s first unfinished novel, Wedding preparations in the countryside, but two surprises awaited the archivists of Jerusalem.
“We discovered unpublished drawings neither signed nor dated, but which Brod had kept”, says Mr. Litt, showing off drawings of characters on small pieces of paper, including a portrait of Kafka’s mother and a self-portrait.
“The big surprise we got when we opened these documents is his blue notebook on which Kafka wrote in Hebrew, signing ‘K’, his usual signature”, relate M. Litt.
In one of the texts written in this notebook, dating from 1920, he asks his teacher in Hebrew not to get angry for mistakes in his homework, “Because I am already angry for both of us”.
Despite these discoveries, one regret for Stefan Litt: no unpublished text, among these leaves written in German by Kafka, has been found in this ” treasure “ came from Switzerland.