Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kafka’s unpublished manuscripts – soon to be revealed!

After five long years, in what seemed frightfully similar to the eternity of a Kafkaesque Trial, Judge Talia Pardo Kupelman (K.) wrote,

"This case, complicated by passions, has been argued in court for quite a long time across seas, lands, and times. Not every day… does the opportunity befall a judge to delve into the depth of history as it unfolds before him in piecemeal fashion," opening, she said, "a window into the lives, desires, frustrations and the souls of two of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century."

The judge ruled that the library of Max Brod, Kafka’s close friend, be transferred to the National Library, in accordance with his wish and intention.

After his death in 1968, Brod’s secretary Eva Hoppe kept, and sold off, some of the important manuscripts. The remaining ones include, as Ofer Aderet writes in Haaretz, Brod's unpublished diary, notebooks with Kafka's writings, and correspondence of Kafka and Brod, among others with Stefan Zweig and Shin Shalom.

Remebering the death of Max Brod, 1968

An excerpt from Requiem - A Tale of Exile and Return:

Without forewarning, Eli Shimeoni found himself transposed more than forty years back in time, walking down Tel Aviv’s King George Street, sometime late winter or very early spring, if his memory did not escape him. He headed for Pollack’s antiquarian bookstore, which even as a young teenager he frequented as often as he could. He felt the thick and heavy air of old books was rich and wise, a comfort and a relief, a refuge from breathing the thick and heavy air of home, which he needed to escape. Those days, after the war of the days of creation, arrogance was in the air. Everyone seemed to fill their lungs with victory and invincibility. But young Eli kept breathing the air of threat and fear, doubt and concern, the compressed air that lay squeezed like the dust in the corners of his room and under his parents bed sofa.

The old bookshop granted an escape into a world of history books and timeworn atlases in which he could sail across the sea of time and continents, where fear and excitement and heroism were free and asked no price. It was a world of books that he could browse but never buy, an odyssey that could only be traveled, but never owned.

Sometimes his mind would play out heroic fantasies. However, unlike his school mates, he was neither the warrior who saves his country, nor the soccer player who leads his team into the world cup final, triumphantly circling the field wrapped in the national flag while an ecstatic crowd sings the anthem. No, his libido was lit by a raging fire, threatening the shop and its treasures from Heine to Freud as if this was Bebelplatz, May 1933. In sharp contrast to his usually slow, pale and shy ways, he would courageously run into the fire and save the most valuable of all the books and atlases and manuscripts.

But that grayish winter day, as he stood outside the window to see if everything was in place, his eyes caught sight of a letter, which must have been put there only days ago. He could not make out the German writing, only that it was addressed to Dr. Brod. His mouth got dry, searching for saliva, his heart pounded and his legs trembled as he entered the store to inquire with the old salesman who might have been much younger than he seemed to be behind those round glasses that always slipped down his nose, who told him that Brod had passed away only a few weeks earlier. Those were years that young Eli would swallow every scrap of paper or piece of knowledge or story by Brod or Kafka. He had even read Brod’s novel Tycho Brahe’s Path to God; though he had found the language difficult, or perhaps simply was too young to grasp, he had been intrigued by the conflict between the old and the new, past thoughts and new ideas. But he felt particularly grateful to old man Brod for being wise enough not to follow stupid Kafka’s request to burn his books – how could he want his books to be burned!!! Of course he could not know that books would be burned less than a decade later, but for sure he knew about Hananiah ben Teradion, the second century religious teacher, who broke the Roman law against teaching the Scriptures. When burned alive with his beloved, the forbidden Torah Scroll, he said to his pupils, “I see the scroll burning, but the letters of the Torah soar upward.”

Young Eli admired the courage of Dr. Brod, but could not really forgive Kafka for wanting to burn his books – only, perhaps, that he had asked in such a way that Brod would understand he did not really mean it. Eli had even seen old uncle Brod once or twice in the street, and tried to follow him without giving himself away, but was too scared that Brod would notice him and scold him and embarrass him and bring him shamefully home to his parents, so he had always made it the other way on Hayarden Street corner Idelson.

He often wondered about the friendship between Franz and Max, and so much wished that Franz would not have starved to death at such a young age – just imagine if he would have lived with Dora across the street of Uncle Max! Write one more book, please, just one!

Read Requiem (English; Hebrew).

As mentioned in Requiem, one of Kafka’s manuscripts that may be found among the thousands of pages in the boxes in the neglected apartment with abandoned cats in Tel Aviv’s Spinoza Street may well be the story - according to leaks, likely by a foreign expert on the Kafka material - about a rat, one among many in Prague’s sewage system. But “this rat had a complex, golden mechanical device, a precise micro-cosmos built into its mind.”

The rest is a story yet to be told, though some of it, as far as we have been able to gather, appears in Requiem (p. 57ff).

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