Friday, October 1, 2010

Traitor or Savior?

During his lifetime, Franz Kafka burned an estimated 90 percent of his work. After his death at age 41, in 1924, a letter was discovered in his desk in Prague, addressed to his friend Max Brod. “Dearest Max,” it began. “My last request: Everything I leave behind me . . . in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches and so on, to be burned unread.” Less than two months later, Brod, disregarding Kafka’s request, signed an agreement to prepare a posthumous edition of Kafka’s unpublished novels. “The Trial” came out in 1925, followed by “The Castle” (1926) and “Amerika” (1927). Was this a betrayal or a service to his late friend? As a writer I would want my friend to burn the manuscripts I don't wish others to see. But then again I will never be a Kafka. And as a reader I would not like to have missed Kafka's immortal novels.

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