Kafka and Cat Piss: The Suit-Case Closes (See What I Did There?)

on Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Never before has so much legal wrangling been done over something so comprehensively soaked in cat piss. Then again, never before has the holy grail smelled so damn awful. But this ain't any ol' grail we're talking about here folks. This is Franz Kafka's suitcase (well, Max Brod's to be precise, but you get my drift); the one stuffed full of notes and manuscripts including, one would hope, lost novels and stories. The one left to languish in the Tel Aviv apartment of some crazy cat lady. The one caught up in the biggest Jewish custody battle since Kramer vs Kramer.

Almost three years after I first blogged about it (and five years since the fight actually began), the Israeli Supreme Court has handed down a definitive verdict in the tussle between Israel's National Library and the two daughters of Max Brod's secretary, Esther Hoffe who, you might recall, claimed that it was given to their mother as a gift to dispose of as she desired. Apparently, that included being allowed to sell the original manuscript of The Trial for personal gain to the German Literature Archive in Marbach. Shit, if I knew it was going to go for a mere $2 million, I would have sold all my organs to science and snapped it up myself!

Anyway, back in February 2010, the court ordered that the two parties come to an arrangement so that the contents could be made available to scholars and rabid fans alike. I was excited. I waited. And I waited. And I waited. Nada. The legal mud wrestle continued in earnest. Now, thank God, sanity has prevailed. Eva Hoffe, the one surviving daughter, has had the thing forcibly snatched away and been slapped with a $25,000-odd bill for legal costs. Ironically, she will likely have to dip into her pool of blood money (or ink money, as it were) to pay it. I'll leave the last word to Judge Kupelman:

"This case, complicated by passions, was argued in court for quite a long time across seas, lands, and times. Not every day, and most definitely not as a matter of routine, does the opportunity befall a judge to delve into the depth of history as it unfolds before him in piecemeal fashion... [This trial has provided] a window into the lives, desires, frustrations and the souls of two of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century.... Due to the strict requirements of proof required, I do not believe that the plaintiffs have met the requirements... the gift was never carried out to completion... One can determine that the Kafka manuscripts, like the Brod estate, were not given to the plaintiffs as gifts... I hope that the inheritance of the late Brod will finally find its place according to the wishes of the deceased."

Which just goes to show, where there's a forged will there still might be a way.


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