Elif Batuman has an amazing story in last week’s New York Times Magazine on the tangled history of Franz Kafka’s diaries and other papers. I won’t even try to summarize it, I’ll just quote a paragraph in which another writer provides a hilarious sort-of-summary:
Etgar Keret, a best-selling Israeli short-story writer who considers Kafka to be his greatest influence, proposes that Brod had no idea that Hoffe would sit on the papers for so long. “Half of us are married to people who say, ‘I’m just going to buy a pack of cigarettes,’ and never return,” he told me. “I think this is the literary version of that, with this Hoffe chick.” Keret characterizes Brod as “a good judge of texts, for sure, but a very bad judge of human characters.” If Brod could see what was happening now, Keret says, he would be “horrified.” Kafka, on the other hand, might be O.K. with it: “The next best thing to having your stuff burned, if you’re ambivalent, is giving it to some guy who gives it to some lady who gives it to her daughters who keep it in an apartment full of cats, right?”
Really, read the whole thing. You won’t regret it.
In other literary-legacy news: Antonina Pirozhkova, Engineer and Widow of Isaac Babel, Dies at 101 (Times obit by William Grimes; thanks, Eric!) and Tolstoy’s Guiding Light: “The philosophical writings of the author of War and Peace inspired followers from Moscow to Croydon and led to the creation of a Christian anarchist reform movement. Charlotte Alston examines the activities and influence of Tolstoy’s disciples.” (Thanks, Paul!)