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Kafka's Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy PDF, ePub eBook When Franz Kafka died in 1924, his loyal friend Max Brod could not bring himself to fulfill Kafka’s last instruction: to burn his remaining manuscripts. Instead, Brod devoted his life to championing Kafka’s work, rescuing his legacy from obscurity and physical destruction. Nearly a century later, an international legal battle erupted to determine which country could claim o When Franz Kafka died in 1924, his loyal friend Max Brod could not bring himself to fulfill Kafka’s last instruction: to burn his remaining manuscripts. Instead, Brod devoted his life to championing Kafka’s work, rescuing his legacy from obscurity and physical destruction. Nearly a century later, an international legal battle erupted to determine which country could claim ownership: Israel, where Kafka dreamed of living, or Germany, where Kafka’s three sisters perished in the Holocaust? Benjamin Balint offers a gripping account of the controversial trial in Israeli courts— brimming with dilemmas legal, ethical, and political—that determined the fate of Kafka’s manuscripts. “Thoughtful and provocative.” — Ruth Franklin, Wall Street Journal “A tale pitting two Goliaths against one octogenarian David, untangled in exacting, riveting detail. . . . A must- read.” — Rebecca Schuman, Slate “A gifted cultural historian with a scholarly sensibility.” — Lev Mendes, New York Times Book Review

30 review for Kafka's Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Balints Bericht über "Kafkas letzten Prozess" habe ich mit absoluter Begeisterung gelesen. Dabei geht es eigentlich gar nicht nur um den letzten Prozess, denn um den Nachlass Kafkas wurde mehrfach vor Gericht gestritten, und wie es in Erbschaftsfragen manchmal zugeht, ist nichts so klar, wie man meinen sollte. Den Prozessen lag von Anfang an eine Vermischung der Interessen zugrunde, denn verhandelt werden musste, ob der Nachlass von Max Brod, in dem sich zahlreiche Kafka-Manuskripte und Briefe b Balints Bericht über "Kafkas letzten Prozess" habe ich mit absoluter Begeisterung gelesen. Dabei geht es eigentlich gar nicht nur um den letzten Prozess, denn um den Nachlass Kafkas wurde mehrfach vor Gericht gestritten, und wie es in Erbschaftsfragen manchmal zugeht, ist nichts so klar, wie man meinen sollte. Den Prozessen lag von Anfang an eine Vermischung der Interessen zugrunde, denn verhandelt werden musste, ob der Nachlass von Max Brod, in dem sich zahlreiche Kafka-Manuskripte und Briefe befanden, tatsächlich im Privatbesitz von Brods langjähriger Sekretären bleiben konnte und ob diese ihn in der Folge an ihre beiden Töchter vererben durfte. Es ging also zunächst vordergründig um eine Erbschaftsfrage, die den Nachlass von Max Brod betraf. Und da in Israel das Interesse an deutschsprachiger Literatur gegen null ging und Max Brods Werk noch geringer als das von Kafka geschätzt wurde, beließ das Gericht in den 70er Jahren das Erbe bei Ester Hoffe, der Sekretärin. Warum der Staat Israel, in dem die deutsche Sprache wenn nicht verboten, so doch höchst unerwünscht war, schließlich doch ein gesteigertes Interesse am Werk Kafkas entwickelte, von dem es bis heute keine hebräischsprachige Gesamtausgabe gibt, hat vielschichtige Gründe, über die man spekulieren kann. Im Wettstreit mit internationalen Konkurrenten wurde bis vor kurzem um den Kafka-Nachlass gerungen, dabei blieb für die Erbinnen Ester Hoffes am Ende nichts übrig. Es ist Balints Meisterleistung, über die Gerichtsverfahren und ihre Hintergründe so zu berichten, dass ich als Leser mitgefiebert habe und der Details niemals überdrüssig wurde. An eben diese Hintergründe knüpft Balint weiter an, wenn er über die Freundschaft von Max Brod und Kafka schreibt, über die Frage, wie Kafka zum Zionismus stand und ob er nach Palästina auswandern wollte, und wenn Balint berichtet, wie schwer es Brod gefallen ist, nach 1938 in Palästina Fuß zu fassen (bei der Flucht in buchstäblich letzter Minute rettete Brod übrigens nicht eigene Sachen von Wert, sondern den Koffer, in dem sich Briefe, Manuskripte, Notizblöcke etc. von Kafka befanden - die er nach Kafkas Willen hätte verbrennen sollen). Wir erfahren, dass die deutsche Sprache und deutsche Literatur in Israel verpönt waren und es bis heute wohl sind und wundern uns mit Balint, dass der Staat Israel plötzlich ein solches Interesse daran entwickelte, die Originalmanuskripte Kafkas in Besitz zu nehmen, eines Autors, der nicht nur nicht hebräisch schrieb, sondern von dem auch strittig ist, ob sein Werk messianisch oder gar vollkommen "unjüdisch" ist. Und schließlich geht es im Kern um die Frage, wem Literatur überhaupt gehören kann und darf. Kann ein Kafka-Manuskript in einer vermüllten Wohnung zwischen Ungeziefer und Katzen aufbewahrt werden, gehört es in eine Staatsbibliothek oder in den Tresor eines Sammlers? Oder gar in ein Literaturarchiv eben jenes Landes, das zahlreiche Familienangehörte Kafkas in die Gaskammern geschickt hat? Ich habe vieles aus Balints großartigem Buch mitgenommen, aber das Gefühl des "Kafkaesken" (eigentlich eine untunliche Bezeichnung) ist bei aller Sachinformation nicht auf der Strecke geblieben, und so musste ich daran denken, wie Josef K. den gegen ihn betriebenen Prozess beschrieben hat: "Ihre Frage, Herr Untersuchungsrichter, ob ich Zimmermaler bin - vielmehr, Sie haben gar nicht gefragt, sondern es mir auf den Kopf zugesagt -, ist bezeichnend für die ganze Art des Verfahrens, das gegen mich geführt wird. Sie können einwenden, daß es überhaupt kein Verfahren ist, Sie haben sehr recht, denn es ist ja nur ein Verfahren, wenn ich es als solches anerkenne. Aber ich erkenne es also für den Augenblick jetzt an, aus Mitleid gewissermaßen. Man kann sich nicht anders als mitleidig dazu stellen, wenn man es überhaupt beachten will. Ich sage nicht, daß es ein liederliches Verfahren ist, aber ich möchte Ihnen diese Bezeichnung zur Selbsterkenntnis angeboten haben."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    "'Art is never owned, neither by its patrons nor even by the artists themselves,' the poet Joseph Brodsky wrote. The trial laid bare a possessiveness over the artistic legacy of the least possessive of men. Reiner Stach writes of Kafka: 'There is not a single known episode in his life in which he displayed possessiveness.' Not so kafka's would-be heirs in Israel and Germany who forgot that Kafka is not theirs; if anything, they are his." (219)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam Loewy

    This is a great book. At its core, it is about the legal dispute over Kafka’s work but that is a small part of the book. The larger story is about Kafka and Max Brod’s lives and how societies try to claim cultural memory. This is a fascinating read. I couldn’t put it down.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Wouter

    Wat slechts een formaliteit had moeten zijn - het laten verifiëren van het testament van haar moeder bij de rechtbank - mondde voor Eva Hoffe in september 2007 uit in een kafkaëske nachtmerrie. Zonder dat haar enige blaam trof, had de staat Israël besloten de nalatenschap van haar moeder te betwisten omdat deze artefacten bezat van 'immens culturele waarde' die behouden moesten worden voor de natie. De buit? De archieven van Max Brod, schrijver van enige faam alsook literair executeur van Franz Wat slechts een formaliteit had moeten zijn - het laten verifiëren van het testament van haar moeder bij de rechtbank - mondde voor Eva Hoffe in september 2007 uit in een kafkaëske nachtmerrie. Zonder dat haar enige blaam trof, had de staat Israël besloten de nalatenschap van haar moeder te betwisten omdat deze artefacten bezat van 'immens culturele waarde' die behouden moesten worden voor de natie. De buit? De archieven van Max Brod, schrijver van enige faam alsook literair executeur van Franz Kafka. Het doel? De manuscripten van Kafka, die zich in deze archieven bevonden, veilig te stellen voor de Nationale Bibliotheek te Jeruzalem. In Kafka's Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy reconstrueert Benjamin Balint de rechtszaak van Israël tegen Hoffe en hij zet de overleveringsgeschiedenis van Kafka's papieren uiteen die uiteindelijk tot deze rechtszaak leidde. Een buitengewoon interessante en rijke geschiedenis, waarbij veel aandacht uitgaat naar de vriendschap tussen Kafka en Brod; de controversiële beslissing van Brod om tegen Kafka's instructies in diens manuscripten na zijn dood niet te verbranden; en de wankele relatie tussen Duitsland en Israël over wie het beste de papieren van Kafka kan beheren. Persoonlijk had ik wellicht nog iets meer reflectie van de auteur willen zien op de onderliggende vraag die de materie van het boek opwerpt: wie komt ons cultureel erfgoed toe dat in particulier bezit verkeert? Een aanrader voor wie geïnteresseerd is in Kafka. Gerelateerd: Forest Dark en Kafka's Other Trial

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cathérine

    Boeiend verhaal over de strijd om het eigendomsrecht van Kafka's nagelaten manuscripten en breder over het van wie, hoe en wat van cultureel erfgoed in het algemeen.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Goldenberg

    This may seem like a bit of a niche subject for a book and it certainly helps to make it interesting and enjoyable if you are a Kafka fan. But it’s also about far more than just the writer and his legacy. By centring on the legal struggle in Israeli courts after the death of Kafka’s friend, Max Brod about the ownership of his Kafka archive, the book then becomes a consideration of identity, Jewishness, Zionism, language, intellectual rights, nationalism and internationalism and a lot more. It’s a This may seem like a bit of a niche subject for a book and it certainly helps to make it interesting and enjoyable if you are a Kafka fan. But it’s also about far more than just the writer and his legacy. By centring on the legal struggle in Israeli courts after the death of Kafka’s friend, Max Brod about the ownership of his Kafka archive, the book then becomes a consideration of identity, Jewishness, Zionism, language, intellectual rights, nationalism and internationalism and a lot more. It’s already well-known that, on his death, Kafka left his manuscripts to Brod with instructions for him to burn them. Of course, he didn’t. Not only that, but he also had to smuggle them out of Prague to Palestine to prevent the Nazis from burning them. So much of what has happened since can only be called Kafkaesque (a term that Balint points out is disliked by most Kafka scholars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Fascinating saga that raises important questions.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ernie

    Subtitled The Case of a Literary Legacy, this is an intriguing analysis of how Kafka's manuscripts were commodified and fought over by people and libraries in Britain, the USA, Germany and Israel. The climax to these rivalries came, incredibly as recent as 2016 when Eva Hoffe, eighty-two lost her appeal before the Supreme Court of Israel and Kafka's papers were allotted to the new National Library of Israel. These were the works taken out of Prague by the famous Czech writer Max Brod in a single Subtitled The Case of a Literary Legacy, this is an intriguing analysis of how Kafka's manuscripts were commodified and fought over by people and libraries in Britain, the USA, Germany and Israel. The climax to these rivalries came, incredibly as recent as 2016 when Eva Hoffe, eighty-two lost her appeal before the Supreme Court of Israel and Kafka's papers were allotted to the new National Library of Israel. These were the works taken out of Prague by the famous Czech writer Max Brod in a single suitcase on the last train to leave before the Nazis closed the border. I was not told how many suitcases he had for his own possessions but in the first of many ironies in this history, he successfully travelled to Palestine, the letter from Thomas Mann, written to facilitate his entry into the USA having not reached him. The papers were given by Brod to Eva's mother Esther, his long time secretary and friend. The first trial occurred in 2007, when Eva attempted to get probate on her mother's will. The State of Israel contested the will, arguing that Esther had betrayed Brod's will as he had betrayed Kafka's last wish to destroy all his papers on his death in 1924. No compensation was offered. Esther had sold the manuscript of The Trial in 1988 at Sotheby's London for one million pounds sterling, the highest price ever paid for a modern manuscript, to the German National Library in the small city of Marbach, the birthplace of Schiller, after a cleverly organised secret bidder acted on their behalf. He announced, “This is perhaps the most important work in twentieth century German literature, and Germany had to have it.” Kafka was a Czech writer, a Jew who chose to write in German yet he was vastly interested in Jewish culture, especially Yiddish language works and traditions. To Germany and Israel, his writing symbolised both the new culture of Israel and the resurrected culture of Germany after the catastrophe of Nazism and the Holocaust. Balint quotes from the papers that “Kafka once said that Jews and Germans 'have a lot in common. They are ambitious, able, diligent, and thoroughly hated by others.'” Germany too, was a relatively recent nation, formed in 1871 and defined by its common language rather than the false claims of race used by the Nazis. While throughout the world, national cultural offices from France for example are labelled Alliance Francaise and Britain, The British Council, the German offices are the Goethe Centres. Thus their attempt to add Kafka to Goethe and Schiller as the counterpoise against the more recent history of Nazism. As Gunther Anders wrote, as quoted by Balint, Germans could “work through their remorse in the form of artistic admiration”. However, the East German regime had denounced Kafka as “decadent” and “useless”. Nationalism had torn Europe apart and almost destroyed humanist culture but here the next development in nationalism was to enlist Kafka, the epitome of individualism, the literary creator of existentialism, in this cultural war between the two nations. Balint, the author of this text does not need to over-emphasise the ironies that are the key to enjoying this richly annotated historical account, he just keeps on quoting Kafka, In The Problems of Our Laws, Kafka wrote, “Our laws are not generally known; they are kept secret...it is an extremely painful thing to be ruled by laws that one does not know.” In The Trial Joseph K says “ I don't know this law” and the warden replies, “so much the worse for you.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jim Puskas

    A bit of a disappointment. An effort has been made to portray the rather ugly and protracted legal squabble between a rather pathetic old woman and the grasping Israeli government as Kafkaesque. In the end, it becomes tiresome and pointless rather than absurd and chilling in the manner of Kafks's stories. Credit to Mr. Balint for his thorough research into Kafka's life in Vienna and his tragic early death. But for me, the debate about Kafka's jewishness and whether his exposure to Zionism was si A bit of a disappointment. An effort has been made to portray the rather ugly and protracted legal squabble between a rather pathetic old woman and the grasping Israeli government as Kafkaesque. In the end, it becomes tiresome and pointless rather than absurd and chilling in the manner of Kafks's stories. Credit to Mr. Balint for his thorough research into Kafka's life in Vienna and his tragic early death. But for me, the debate about Kafka's jewishness and whether his exposure to Zionism was significant became somewhat irrelevant. The only venture into absurdity was the bizaare idea of the German cultural authorities wishing to lay claim to the works of a writer whose entire family and most friends their government had murdered! A well-intentioned effort but it continued to lose momentum, the farther I read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Remko

    Over de strijd om de van Kafka's werk en zijn vriendschap met Max Brod. In een brief aan zijn verloofde Felice Bauer [zet Kafka] twee recente publicaties over zijn werk naast elkaar (...) 'Wil je me trouwens ook niet eens zeggen wat ik nu eigenlijk ben? In de laatste Neue Rundschau (...) schrijven ze: "K's vertelkunst heeft iets oer-Duits". In het opstel van Max [Brod] daarentegen (...): "K's verhalen behoren tot de meest joodse documenten van onze tijd."' 'Een moeilijk geval', besluit Kafka. 'Ben Over de strijd om de van Kafka's werk en zijn vriendschap met Max Brod. In een brief aan zijn verloofde Felice Bauer [zet Kafka] twee recente publicaties over zijn werk naast elkaar (...) 'Wil je me trouwens ook niet eens zeggen wat ik nu eigenlijk ben? In de laatste Neue Rundschau (...) schrijven ze: "K's vertelkunst heeft iets oer-Duits". In het opstel van Max [Brod] daarentegen (...): "K's verhalen behoren tot de meest joodse documenten van onze tijd."' 'Een moeilijk geval', besluit Kafka. 'Ben ik een circusruiter op twee paarden? Helaas ben ik geen ruiter, maar lig ik op de grond'

  11. 4 out of 5

    Frank O'connor

    This is a book about legacy and ownership. It is interesting to see how Individuals and states tussle for ownership, protection and the financial reward of great artistic legacy. Kafka’s own relationship with Germany, Palestine and Zionism is also intriguing. Overall, however the content is thin and could be better fleshed out.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Perlie

    This book was at its best in its recounting of the Israel scenes. I found it a little in the weeds when talking about the relationship between Brod and Kafa. Brod did not come across very likeably, nor did his heirs.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lynda Kraar

    Substance was great - a lot of info about which I had zero knowledge. I did the audiobook. Suggestion: Don't do it. For reasons I shared w/ the publisher b/c I'm not in the business of public shaming. Just take it from me - READ, don't LISTEN. You will be appalled. "I've said too much." Nuff said.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    Diesen Prozess hätte Kafka nicht besser schreiben können.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Janek

    interesting and not only for Kafka's aficionados

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kevinjwoods

    an interesting story toldin an uninteresting form

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ameyavikrama Thanvi

  18. 5 out of 5

    Simona

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elan Kluger

  20. 5 out of 5

    Derek

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rizwan Husain

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kebby Vincent

  27. 5 out of 5

    Monika Cutri

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ewa Karczewska

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Alcabes

  30. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Qureshi

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