Collaborative Collecting

Literary archives are often dispersed across various institutions. This is certainly the case with the archives of Franz Kafka, for whom Worldcat lists 113 repositories with archival holdings, despite the fact that Kafka intentionally destroyed much of his papers during his lifetime. Large collections of Kafka papers are held at the Bodleian Libraries (University of Oxford) and Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach. These institutions recently cooperatively purchased a collection of Kafka’s letters, a collaboration that “is thought to be the first time that a literary archive has been purchased jointly by two institutions in different countries with the intention to share access and scholarly activities.” An encouraging step in light of the legal proceedings concerning Max Brod’s literary estate, an estate that contains diaries, manuscripts, and letters that Kafka bequeathed to Brod, with the one caveat that Brod burn them (he didn’t).

For more details about the collaboration between Bodleian Libraries and Deutsches Literaturarchiv see http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/news/2011-april-04 . For more information about Brod’s literary estate consult Elif Batuman’s article “Kafka’s Last Trial,” The New York Times Magazine (September 26, 2010).

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