Excerpt from an article, The Fight Over Kafka:
In a bank vault in staid Zurich an episode of high literary drama unfolded recently. A safety deposit box was opened and inside was revealed a handwritten manuscript of a story by Franz Kafka. At that same moment, an Israeli woman named Eve Hoffe ran into the bank building seeking to prevent the box from being opened, shouting: “It’s mine, it’s mine.”Who does Kafka belong to? The court case in Israel over the past two years will eventually decide the proper ownership of certain manuscripts of Kafka’s. “It’s mine, it’s mine” is low comedy or high drama, or old-fashioned melodrama. In our era of laptops and e-books, the very idea of a handwritten manuscript feels old fashioned. But maybe just for that reason, such a manuscript is all the more precious.Especially a manuscript of Franz Kafka’s, one of the most widely read writers on the planet, who twenty years after his death in 1924 rose to prophetic status with works like The Trial and The Penal Colony. Kafka’s strange humor and pain seemed to describe our predicament after the cruel bureaucracy of the Holocaust and the frozen bureaucracies of the cold war. Does he have more to tell us? Is there in these boxes a previously unknown story by the enigmatic master, a message in a bottle for us today? 85 years after his death, it’s intriguing to think fate left us a new original, undestroyed manuscript by Kafka.
There’s a long answer to this, which will be forthcoming, but the short answer is: Yes. Yes, Kafka has more to tell and yes, there are previously unknown stories waiting to be read.
It is intriguing to think that fate could leave a new original by Kafka. It’s called reincarnation by most people, some call it transmigration of souls, some call it gilgul. Kafka knew he was dieing and assumed Brod would live a long life. These papers, which were held by Max and then by his secretary, will allude to Kafka’s belief in transmigration and starting over with a new name. The question becomes did Franz Kafka, the enigmatic master, know in 1924 the actual name by which he would be called? Did he mention the name? Did he bury work and plan to dig it up decades later? Will it be Brod’s papers that shed light and help unfold the mystery of his name, his will and testament, and where to dig them up? As much as everything is impossible, all things are possible. If not Franz Kafka, who else would have traveled to the future and attempted the impossible?
While everyone knows that Franz Kafka studied the Kabbalah, it should be noted that he studied Benjamin Franklin as well. Considering Franklin’s epitaph I wonder why Kafka did not leave one similar. But, of one thing we can be sure, it’s that he was enigmatic and his life will continue to unfold with new stories.
The Epitaph of Young Benjamin Franklin
The Body of
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be whlly lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.