Kafka’s unpublished letters, drawings now available online

An unpublished collection of letters, manuscripts and drawings by Franz Kafka are now available online via the Israel National Library, which recovered the documents after years of legal wrangling.

Some 120 drawings and more than 200 letters to his friend Max Brod are among the archives now available for public viewing, the project’s curator Stefan Litte tells AFP.

The documents exist thanks to Brod’s decision to break a pact with his friend Kafka, the acclaimed Czech Jewish author of “The Trial” and “The Metamorphosis,” who as he suffered from tuberculosis asked that his writings be destroyed.

But after the author died in 1924, Brod decided to keep the papers and in 1939 fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for Tel Aviv with them in tow.

Most of the recovered material had already been published by Brod — but two surprises were in store for archivists in Jerusalem.

“We discovered unpublished drawings, neither signed nor dated, but that Brod had kept,” says Litt, who showed drawings of characters on small pieces of paper, including drawings of Kafka’s mother and a self-portrait.

“The big surprise we received when we opened these documents was his blue notebook, in which Kafka wrote in Hebrew, signing ‘K,’ his usual signature,” Litt says.

An original manuscript written in Hebrew by Franz Kafka is displayed at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, May 31, 2021. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

In one of the entries in his notebook, dated to 1920, he asks a teacher in Hebrew not to get angry for mistakes in his homework — “because I am already angry for both of us.”

But for Litt, there’s only one regret: the “treasure” from Switzerland included German leaflets written by Kafka, but none of them unpublished.

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