Kafka’s Hebrew notes go on display
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Kafka’s Hebrew notes go on display

Jewish author studied the language when he planned to make aliya; National Library will host exhibit this weekend

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Franz Kafka in 1906. (public domain)
Franz Kafka in 1906. (public domain)

Pages from the notebook used by Czech Jewish author Franz Kafka for his Hebrew language classes will be available for public viewing this week at the National Library in Jerusalem. The display is part of the Open House Jerusalem 2013 program taking place this weekend, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Sunday.

Kafka, who wrote in German, is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. He planned on moving to Israel, and began looking for a Hebrew tutor. He was introduced to one Puah Manchel, who had moved to Prague from Mandate-era Jerusalem to study at the Charles University in Prague.

When their sessions ended, Kafka gave her some of his notebook as a memento, with columns of words in Hebrew facing their German translations. Manchel donated the pages to the National Library.

Kafka and Manchel also corresponded by mail in Hebrew. Manchel ultimately cut off contact between them, but Kafka continued to inquire about her to their mutual acquaintances.

Kafka died in 1924, and most of his work was published posthumously by his friend Max Brod against his express wishes.

A Hebrew letter sent from Franz Kafka to his Hebrew tutor Puah Manchel (photo credit: Nurit Ashkenazi: public domain)
A Hebrew letter sent from Franz Kafka to his Hebrew tutor Puah Manchel (photo credit: Nurit Ashkenazi: public domain)

Manchel went on to run a high school in Beersheba, where she revolutionized the educational philosophy. Her son Ehud Netzer, a prominent archaeologist, discovered King Herod’s grave in the Judean Desert, and died at the site in a 2010 accident.

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