Page last updated at 01:37 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 02:37 UK

Hidden Kafka papers set to emerge

By Paul Wood
BBC News, Jerusalem

St Vitus Cathedral in Prague castle
German-speaking Kafka lived in Prague

Experts are to examine previously unseen documents belonging to the writer Franz Kafka, which were locked away in a Tel Aviv flat for 40 years.

The papers have been gathering dust in the home of the former secretary of Kafka's literary executor, Max Brod.

Since his death in 1968, they've been kept by Esther Hoffe, who right up until her recent death at the age of 101 doggedly refused to release them.

But it is unclear if the fragile papers remain legible after so many years.

Before he died from tuberculosis aged 41, Franz Kafka decreed that all his manuscripts should be burned.

His friend and literary executor, Max Brod, ignored that instruction.

The result was such brooding novels of alienation, persecution and hopelessness as The Trial, Metamorphosis and The Castle.

The published works owe much to Max Brod's editing since Kafka rarely finished any of his works - The Castle actually stopped mid-sentence.

That is why the unseen notes and documents might be so valuable.

They were originally packed into two suitcases and smuggled out of Prague in 1939 just ahead of the German advance on the city.

They've been kept in Tel Aviv these past 40 years by Brod's secretary, Esther Hoffe, who refused all requests to examine them.

The authorities here have warned that the damp in her flat and the many dogs and cats she kept may have damaged or even destroyed the papers.

The world of Kafka scholarship is in a state of anxious suspense - not unlike one of Kafka's characters.


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