Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Germans vs. The Zionists vs. The Capitalists (with the Winner obtaining the rights to claim Kafka as their own)



Franz Kafka, author of Metamorphosis, one of the weirdest, most compelling books I read in high school  is up for grabs.


Sure, he's been dead for nearly 90 years, but Kafka still matters man.


Basically, before Kafka died, he told his friend, Max Brod to burn all his papers upon his death.


Brod, thankfully did not burn said papers. Instead, Brod took papers and moved to Palestine (which became Israel). Out of these papers, many letters and books by Kafka were published posthumously. 


And today, those papers that Kafka requested to be burned but never were burned are still around. 


And we are talking about Millions of dollars worth of papers, some of them have never been read....(one manuscript from the pile of papers went for 2 million back in the 60's).


The paper's currently reside in Israel in a vault under "ownership" by two sisters.


The Battle:


The Two sisters who inherited the papers from Max Brod want to sell the papers outright. (Claiming private ownership, desiring money, capitalism, blah blah blah).


But here's the debate....The Israeli Library  is claiming the papers are rightfully theirs on behalf of all Jewish people, in consideration that Kafka was Jewish.


The German Library  is claiming that the papers should be theirs arguing that Kafka wrote in German and that it can better protect the papers (in consideration that it's archives are carefully maintained and that it already possesses one of Kafka's manuscripts).


But this trial is far more fascinating than I just described it as...


if you have time, read Judith Butler's article on the topic which includes some brilliant analysis....it can be read here: LINK


Here is one of the more fascinating bits Butler picks up:

If Kafka is claimed as a primarily Jewish writer, he comes to belong primarily to the Jewish people, and his writing to the cultural assets of the Jewish people. This claim... becomes all the more (controversial) when we realise that the legal case rests on the presumption that it is the state of Israel that represents the Jewish people.... 


 First, the claim overcomes the distinction between Jews who are Zionist and Jews who are not, for example Jews in the diaspora for whom the homeland is not a place of inevitable return or a final destination...


The implicit understanding is that all Jews and Jewish cultural assets – whatever that might mean – outside Israel eventually and properly belong to Israel, since Israel represents not only all Jews but all significant Jewish cultural production.... 


and now through claiming significant works by those who happen to be  Jews as  Jewish cultural capital that, as such, rightly belongs to the Israeli state.


In summary, when the National Library of Israel claims Kafka's paper on behalf of all the Jewish people, and because Kafka is Jewish, Israel is in a sense saying that as a State, Israel defines Jewishness, and also speaks on behalf of all Jews, even those who don't live in Israel.  AKA even though Kafka Never stepped foot in Palestine (which would become Israel), and was entirely a European citizen, Israel is claiming that He was really one of their own.....even when he didn't know it. 


As a  Jew by ethnicity, I don't like this. I am not a Zionist.

1 comment:

Thelonius Bostik said...

even though it would be perfectly possible for a Zionist to be both German and a Capitalist, it is - as you are right to infer - an unusual hybrid; more likely the conflict over Kafka's wonderful writing will provoke enmity in some quarter, and negative vibes will ensue.
what a wonderful article.
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