Kafka's Last Trial

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

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'Fascinating and forensically scrupulous.' John Banville, Guardian

When Franz Kafka died in 1924, his loyal champion Max Brod could not bring himself to fulfil his friend's last instruction: to burn his remaining manuscripts. Instead, Brod devoted the rest of his life to editing, publishing and canonizing Kafka's work. By betraying his friend's last wish, Brod twice rescued his legacy - first from physical destruction, and then from obscurity. But that betrayal was also eventually to lead to an international legal battle: as a writer in German, should Kafka's papers come to rest in Germany, where his three sisters died as victims of the Holocaust? Or, as a Jewish writer, should his work be considered as a cultural inheritance of Israel, a state that did not exist at the time of his death?

Alongside an acutely observed portrait of Kafka, Benjamin Balint also traces the journey of the manuscripts Brod had rescued when he fled from Prague to Palestine in 1939 and offers a gripping account of the Israeli court case that determined their fate. He tells of a wrenching escape from the Nazi invaders of Czechoslovakia; of a love affair between exiles stranded in Tel Aviv; and of two countries whose national obsessions with the past eventually faced off in the courts.

For fans of Philippe Sands' East West Street, in Kafka's Last Trial Benjamin Balint invites us to consider Kafka's remarkable legacy and to question whether that legacy belongs by right to the country of his language, that of his birth, or that of his cultural affinities - but also whether any nation state can lay claim to ownership of a writer's work at all.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 135 x 216 x 26mm | 438g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1509836713
  • 9781509836710
  • 65,359

Table of contents

Chapter - 1: The Last Appeal Chapter - 2: "Fanatical Veneration": The First to Fall under Kafka's Spell Chapter - 3: The First Trial Chapter - 4: Flirting with the Promised Land Chapter - 5: First and Second Judgments Chapter - 6: Last Son of the Diaspora: Kafka's Jewish Afterlife Chapter - 7: The Last Ingathering: Kafka in Israel Chapter - 8: Kafka's Last Wish, Brod's First Betrayal Chapter - 9: Kafka's Creator Chapter - 10: The Last Train: From Prague to Palestine Chapter - 11: The Last Tightrope Dancer: Kafka in Germany Chapter - 12: Laurel & Hardy Chapter - 13: Brod's Last Love Chapter - 14: The Last Heiress: Selling Kafka Chapter - 15: The Last Heiress: Selling Kafka
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Review quote

Who should inherit Kafka? . . . Searing questions of language, of personal bequest, of friendship, of biographical evidence, of national pride, of justice, of deceit and betrayal, even of metaphysical allegiance, burn through Balint's scrupulous trackings of Kafka's final standing before the law. -- Cynthia Ozick, Orange prize-shortlisted author of Foreign Bodies Thrilling and profound, Kafka's Last Trial shines new light not only on the greatest writer of the twentieth century and the fate of his work, but also on the larger question of who owns art or has a right to claim guardianship of it . . . [Balint's] research and lively intelligence deliver insights on every page. -- Nicole Krauss Thoughtful and provocative. * Wall Street Journal * A tale pitting two Goliaths against one octogenarian David, untangled in exacting, riveting detail . . . A must-read. * Slate * The absurd and thrilling tale . . . Balint weaves the story together artfully * Prospect * Fascinating . . . Balint uses the three-way tug-of-literary-love to pose a series of philosophical questions about Kafka and the way culture is often conscripted to a cause. * Big Issue * 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 * Gripping and knotty. * New Statesman * 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 * 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 * Dramatic and illuminating . . . raises momentous questions about nationality, religion, literature, and even the Holocaust. * The Atlantic * 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 * 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 * 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 * [A] fascinating and forensically scrupulous account of the history of Kafka's papers. -- John Banville * Guardian * A literary battle that became Kafkaesque . . . remarkable . . . I warmly recommend this deeply absorbing book. * Daily Telegraph *
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About Benjamin Balint

Benjamin Balint taught literature, including Kafka, at the Bard College humanities programme at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. His first book, Running Commentary, was published by PublicAffairs in 2010. His second book, Jerusalem: City of the Book, is co-authored with Merav Mack. His reviews and essays regularly appear in the Wall Street Journal, Die Zeit, Haaretz, the Weekly Standard, and the Claremont Review of Books. His translations of Hebrew poetry have appeared in the New Yorker and in Poetry International.
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Rating details

145 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 22% (32)
4 44% (64)
3 29% (42)
2 4% (6)
1 1% (1)
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