Kafka's Last Trial: The Strange Case of a Literary Legacy

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9781509836734: Kafka's Last Trial: The Strange Case of a Literary Legacy
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'A highly entertaining story of literary friendship, epic legal battles and cultural politics centred on one of the most enigmatic writers of the 20th century' Financial Times

When Franz Kafka died in 1924, his friend Max Brod could not bring himself to fulfil the writer’s last instruction: to burn his remaining manuscripts. Instead, Brod took them with him to Palestine in 1939, and devoted the rest of his life to editing and canonizing Kafka’s work. By betraying his last wish, Brod twice rescued his legacy – first from physical destruction, and then from obscurity.

In Kafka’s Last Trial, Benjamin Balint offers a gripping account of the contest for ownership that followed, ending in Israeli courts with a controversial trial – brimming with legal, ethical, and political dilemmas – that would determine the fate of Kafka’s manuscripts. This is at once a biographical portrait of a literary genius, and the story of two countries whose national obsessions with overcoming the traumas of the past came to a head in a hotly contested trial for the right to claim the literary legacy of one of our modern masters.

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Review:

A literary battle that became Kafkaesque . . . remarkable . . . I warmly recommend this deeply absorbing book. (Daily Telegraph)

[A] fascinating and forensically scrupulous account of the history of Kafka’s papers. (John Banville Guardian)

Balint fascinatingly examines how much was at stake for Germany and Israel in claiming Kafka as their man . . . [He] has minutely researched every twist and turn of this politico-legal saga, and tells it with even-handed seriousness. (Sunday Times)

Balint’s account of this saga is both a fine journalistic telling of that half century of courtroom drama, and a revealing examination of the writer and the relationships at its heart . . . Balint brings all of these forces and arguments to vivid life. (Observer)

Absorbing . . . Not only does Mr Balint ask, “Who owns Kafka?” He explores the meaning of a writer’s legacy in an age that, like Kafka’s disorienting stories, puts identity and belonging in doubt. (The Economist)

Dramatic and illuminating . . . raises momentous questions about nationality, religion, literature, and even the Holocaust. (The Atlantic)

Kafka’s Last Trial is a legal and philosophical black comedy of the first order, complete, like all the best adventure stories, with a physical treasure to be won or lost . . . : the absurdity of our modern obsession with ‘authenticity’ and ‘ownership’ (Spectator)

The question of who owns Kafka is at the heart of Benjamin Balint’s thought-provoking and assiduously researched Kafka’s Last Trial. (Literary Review)

Gripping and knotty. (New Statesman)

Balint handles these complicated claims and counter-claims with great care. He has read widely in the literature about Kafka and provides a fascinating account of the Jewish world of early 20th century Prague, which formed Kafka and Brod . . . Above all, he brings Brod to life . . . Balint is an extremely interesting writer and critic. (Standpoint)

Book Description:

The gripping story of the legal battle over the work of perhaps the most iconic writer of the twentieth century: a priceless cache of papers, an unprecedented international custody battle, and the unlikely journey of a trove of manuscripts from Prague to Palestine.

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