A collection of Franz Kafka’s personal documents is now online
When Franz Kafka realized his health was deteriorating in the early 1920s, he asked his friend and executor Max Brod to destroy all of his personal documents after his death.
“My last request” Kafka wrote. “Anything I leave behind… in the form of diaries, manuscripts, letters (mine and those of others), sketches, etc., must be burned without being read. “
It wasn’t really surprising. Kafka had already burned an overwhelming majority of his work, and he had never really wanted to share his completed compositions either. Brod was the driving force behind their post, and he continued in that role after Metamorphosis the author died of tuberculosis in 1924. Instead of respecting his friend’s last wish, Brod saved everything.
Kafka’s novels—The trial, The castle, and America– were published in the following years, and Brod gave a large collection of documents to the children of Kafka’s sister in 1962. Most of them ended up at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
Brod clung to the rest of Kafka’s papers, which went to his secretary Esther Hoffe after her death in 1968. Instead of giving them to a public institution, as Brod had requested in his will, Hoffe sold some documents and tried to forward the rest. to his daughters upon his death in 2007. At this point, the National Library of Israel has launched a legal battle to claim them, in accordance with Brod’s original request. In 2015, the library finally got the cache.
Now like Smithsonian reports, this collection is freshly digitized and ready to be viewed online. There is a travel journal of a 1911 trip through Europe; letters to his parents, his fiancee Felice Bauer, Brod and other friends; a first version of a 1907 short story entitled “Preparations for marriage in the country”; and other handwritten papers.
There are also around 120 eclectic illustrations that range from a clear pencil sketch of his bespectacled mother to an austere ink drawing of an angry man leaning over a glass of wine in a bar.
You can explore the archives here.