Kafka’s Secret Vaults to Be Examined Today

Today, the BBC reports, a specialist will examine four vaults in Zurich believed to contain the last works of Franz Kafka — part of an ongoing legal battle to determine who owns the texts, and if they should be published. It’s a story that has taken many twists and turns, and unlike many other news sources, we’ve spared you any use of the word “Kafkaesque.”

A pair of Israeli sisters appears to have the best claim to the papers, coming to them through a long connection to Kafka friend and literary executor Max Brod. The country Israel is also throwing its hat into the ring, claiming ownership because Kafka was Jewish, and Germany has already offered to buy the texts sight unseen. The Trial and The Castle were both unfinished, so it’s understandable why these texts are even more anticipated than, say, The Original of Laura was.

A few things on this: First, four vaults? Didn’t he have a day job? Also, how did the papers get from Israel to Zurich? The BBC isn’t really sure. All they say is that the papers were put there “at some point during the past 50 years.” Well, obviously.

Between this and the new Mark Twain autobiography, it seems we’ve found another reason to feel sorry for writers: competition from dead authors.