Kafka's secret vault prised open
Published 20/07/2010 | 05:00
ONE of the 20th Century's most abiding literary secrets was prised open in the vaults of a Swiss bank yesterday as scholars got their first glimpse of Franz Kafka's unpublished private papers.
For more than 50 years, a vast treasure trove containing the bulk of the Czech author's writing has been hidden away in 10 safety deposit boxes.
Hopes of unearthing a major literary find have come closer to fruition after Israel's supreme court ended a two-year legal tussle over the ownership of Kafka's estate by ordering that the boxes finally be opened.
The ruling represented a victory for the Israeli state against two sisters, Eva Hoffe and Ruth Wiesler, who are in their 70s, and whose family has jealously guarded their custodianship of the Kafka papers.
Mrs Hoffe made a last-minute attempt to protect the secrecy of the collection yesterday. But her attempt failed, and a team of lawyers and manuscript experts began their race to sift through thousands of documents, which are believed to include notes, diaries, drawings -- and perhaps even an incomplete novel.
"No one knows what is the number of letters, or manuscripts, or diaries to be found there," said Dan Novhari, a lawyer representing the executor of the Hoffe estate.
The saga of publishing Kafka's works is a long one, dating back to the author's death from tuberculosis in 1924.
Whatever the next twists and turns in the case, it may still be months before the public learns the secrets of the Kafka archive -- with the Israeli courts in summer recess, no decision is expected until September. (© Daily Telegraph, London)