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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 12:46 GMT
Kafka's work goes back to Prague
Prague's Old Town Square, where Kafka was born
Prague's Old Town Square, where Kafka was born
The personal library of author Franz Kafka is to be returned to his native Prague.

The manuscripts, including some of the first editions of his work, had been owned by car giant Porsche.

The German auto manufacturer said it had acquired his library from an antiquarian book dealer in Stuttgart with a view to handing it over to the Franz Kafka Society in the Czech Republic.

The collection, which comprises some 1,000 books and other documents, has been valued at around 80,000.

Alienation

The German-Jewish-Czech Kafka was famed for his portrayals of alienation and faceless bureaucracy.

He lived from 1883 to 1924 and gave the world such classics as Metamorphosis and The Trial. He wrote almost exclusively in German.

His work is described as expressing the isolation and guilt of 20th Century man.

Kafka was virtually unknown during his lifetime, but he has since been recognised as arguably one of the last century's most influential writers.

After graduating in law from Prague's German University, he worked from 1907 to 1922 as an official in two insurance associations, but he was determined to make writing his life.

Self-critical

Jeremy Irons
An enduring figure: Kafka was played by Jeremy Irons in the 1992 movie

He was extremely critical of his own work and burned many manuscripts because he was unhappy with the quality.

However a close friend of his, Max Brod, refused to go along with the author's wishes and saved many pieces of work from the fire.

Kafka's works were largely unavailable during the communist era, and it was only last year that the Franz Kafka Society bought out a Czech translation of his complete works.

The writer was the subject of a fictionalised 1992 movie, called Kafka, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Jeremy Irons as the author.

See also:

11 Oct 99 | Iron Curtain
Writers without a cause
16 Feb 00 | Europe
Prague divided over Kafka Square
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