A writer would be tempted to describe any conflict over Franz Kafka’s estate as “Kafkaesque,” even if it were relatively ordinary and clear. However, in the Czech Jewish writer’s case, the eponymous adjective really does seem apt. According to The Washington Post, unpublished papers belonging to the estate of Max Brod, Kafka’s literary executor, are spread over half a dozen boxes in Israel and Switzerland (and that’s not counting suspected secret Swiss boxes). These may contain little of interest; they also may contain unpublished letters or stories in Kafka’s hand. The Israeli State Archivist claims that it was understood that Brod’s heirs, the Hoffes, would give the papers to a public archive. The Hoffes claim the papers are their property (and they are considering selling them to the Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach, Germany—which already owns the original manuscript of Kafka’s The Trial).
“To the Hoffes,” we are told, “the episode smacks of the heavy-handed statism about which Kafka wrote. Their mother’s entire will—estimated in the millions of dollars—is being held in limbo by the courts while the fight over the documents is litigated.” If you’re looking for an extra layer of irony, you may find it here: Max Brod might be considered one of the worst literary executors in history. After all, Brod published Kafka’s extant novels and stories, and kept all his papers. Kafka wanted everything burned.