Kafka Papers Online.

The National Library of Israel has digitized and put online its Kafka holdings (scroll down to see categories):

In 1921 and 1922, Kafka wrote two notes to Brod asking that all his manuscripts, paintings and letters be destroyed after his death. In defiance of this clear directive, from June 1924 Brod collected all of the materials from the various locations, examined them and began to publish what Kafka had stored away during his lifetime. The three unfinished novels The Trial, America ​​and The Castle are among the most well-known of these works. Brod took all of Kafka’s writings with him when he left his native Czechoslovakia for Mandatory Palestine in March 1939, just hours before the Nazis invaded the country. In the early 1960s, he returned most of them to Kafka’s heirs.

These materials are preserved today in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, while hundreds of letters, a number of short manuscripts and even many of Kafka’s drawings remained in Brod’s possession, comprising a significant part of Kafka’s literary legacy. Between 2016 and 2019, Brod’s own extensive personal archive, along with Kafka’s items, was deposited in the National Library of Israel. A number of other original items of Kafka’s, including notebooks in which he practiced his Hebrew, are also preserved today at the National Library, and together these materials represent the third largest collection in the world of the great writer’s original material.

As an example, here are manuscript pages from The Castle. Another win for the internet!

In other literary news, Alison Flood reports for the Guardian: Authors to earn royalties on secondhand books for first time.

Oh, and if there’s a short (under 125 pages) piece of nineteenth-century Russian prose that you wish were available in English, let Erik McDonald know in the next week or so.

Comments

  1. The secondhand royalty scheme rubs me the wrong way. The author has already profited from the sale of their book.

    I don’t believe that engagement with the material multiple times makes it worthy of being paid for ad nauseam. Should a car manufacturer receive compensation every time its cars are resold? How about a housebuilder when a home goes on the market? If you sell me land, does money have to go every prior owner?

    I just don’t see it.

  2. I don’t think you can really compare authors to car manufacturers. The latter just keep making and selling more cars; the former may have only one or two books that sell at all, and they may be very strapped for income — every little bit helps. I understand your point of view, but I think you may be looking at it too narrowly. Authors (and other artists) are not capitalist manufacturers.

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    Second-hand-booksellers are mostly not raking it in, either, though. In a better world, it would only be Amazon that had to pay royalties for second-hand books; ideally, for all second-hand books, regardless of whoever actually sold them …

  4. Hear, hear. In this case though it looks like the royalties will be coming not from booksellers but from a dedicated fund, and the article doesn’t mention where the fund’s cash comes from.

  5. PatrickC says

    Another nice thing about the UK is Public Lending Right. Even though I live in the US, I get a small but very welcome yearly check for books of mine that have been borrowed from UK libraries, through an organization called the Authors’ Registry. I don’t remember if a book has to have been published in the UK to qualify. But the real question is why doesn’t the US have PLR?

  6. @PatrickC: The reason is the first-sale doctrine, which ensures that copyright holders cannot place encumbrances on their works after they are sold to the consumer. Once sold, a book belongs irrevocably to the purchaser, and the copyright owner has no further rights over how the book is to be lent or resold. This is evidently an American legal invention, ca. 1908, and so it is not shared with British jurisdictions. Of course, American libraries and used booksellers could voluntarily make payments to authors, but there is no tangible incentive to do so.

    My familiarity with the issues surrounding the first-sale doctrine comes from dealing with academic textbook prices. Many expensive books are (or were) also manufactured in cheaper foreign editions, which the publishers tried to prevent from being imported to the U. S. There was a substantial gray market for while, which exploded in this millennium, facilitated by the ease of online sales. The issue was finally decided by the Supreme Court in 2013, which ruled that the first-sale doctrine applied to items produced overseas with the permission of the copyright holder; the copyright holder has no authority to prevent the importation and sale of a foreign edition in the U. S.

  7. Who funds the PLR in the UK? Or, what portion of a typical lending library’s budget does it take?

  8. John Cowan says

    It’s paid by U.K. local authorities, who are by statute required to maintain public lending libraries. Loans from university, college, school, volunteer-run, and community libraries do not qualify. In each year, about 30 districts are sampled (amounting to about 1,000 libraries total), and authors are paid in proportion to the loans of their books from those libraries scaled up to the whole country.

    Any one author can receive no more than £6,600 per annum, so the British need not fear that Stephen King is gobbling up any large number of their tax pounds.

  9. The facts are well known, but perhaps it’s worth repeating that Kafka must have known that Brod would not destroy his papers. Among many relevant facts, the most salient is that in 1921, when Kafka was well aware that he was dying, he told Brod that he would want his papers burned after his death, and Brod replied that he certainly would not do so.

    It’s absurd to think that Brod would have burned Kafka’s papers. Brod was his best and oldest friend and greatest admirer. Without his urging, Kafka might never have published a word. Although Kafka always doubted his talent, Brod – who was a successful novelist while Kafka himself was earning a living as an insurance lawyer – believed that Kafka was the greatest living writer, and even more, a writer for the ages. At his funeral, Brod said that Kafka was a prophet “in whom the splendor of the Divine Presence shone.” Although eulogists are prone to hyperbole, there’s little doubt that Brod meant these words literally.

    When Brod was criticized for not burning the papers, he replied that if Kafka had wanted the papers destroyed he would have designated a different executor.

  10. David Eddyshaw says

    Looking at the MS, I was surprised to find that I could actually read it, an unexpected thing (to me, anyway) for anything handwritten in German a century ago. His handwriting is also a lot better than mine, but I have an excuse. Incidentally, I discover that déformation professionnelle is French for “nerdview.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A9formation_professionnelle

  11. John Cowan says

    Indeed, just as formation professionnelle is French for ‘professional training’. Whoever thought up the former term has a fine wit.

  12. Stu Clayton says

    Speaking of witless formation, here’s a sentence in the German WiPe on Brod:

    Max Brod erhielt früh Klavierunterricht und war in seiner Kindheit und Jugend häufig krank.

    There is a term for this kind of non sequitur sequence, so beloved of journalists. Unfortunately I’ve forgotten it, would someone remind me ? If I were inventing a description, I would say “dog-breakfast prose”.

  13. But maybe a connection is implied? Our daughter also had ways to avoid lessons she didn’t want to attend. 😉

  14. David Eddyshaw says

    It seems clear enough to me. Piano lessons are a notorious health hazard. It seems unlikely to me that minors can meaningfully consent to undergoing them, though I believe the matter has yet to be tested in court. But those of us who have had to deal with arpeggio injuries are in no doubt that piano tuition is a matter for consenting adults.

  15. David Eddyshaw says
  16. Stu Clayton says

    For this relief much thanx !

  17. Stu Clayton says

    On a lighter note, TIL the useful Hebrew expression “halway sheyaamod”. Here’s the genesis of Genesis as glossed from Talmud by D. Caputo in The Weakness of God:

    # »Twenty-six attempts preceded the present genesis, all of which were destined to fail. The world of man has arisen out of the chaotic heart of the preceding debris; he too is exposed to the risk of failure, and the return to failure, and the return to nothing. ›Let us hope it works‹ (Halway Sheyaamod), exclaimed God as he created the world, and this hope, which has accompanied the subsequent history of the world and mankind, has emphasized right from the outset that this history is branded with the mark of radical uncertainty. (Talmud)« #

    But why 26 ?? And not, say, 22 ?

  18. I like it very much; I hope someone who knows Hebrew can provide the original of “halway sheyaamod.”

  19. Stu Clayton says

    David Eddyshaw surely has got the chops, having learned the lingo from his granpa or similar Bezugsperson. Lineage was not my lot in life. I identify with the “chaotic heart of the preceding debris”. Today is a day to mope.

  20. Owlmirror says

    hal’váy shéya’amód

    “That it works” is a bit of a broad translation; more literally, “let it be that it should stand” or “let it be that it should remain established”.

  21. Stu Clayton says

    Let it be that broad translation should remain established !

    Jacques-François-Fromental-Élie Halévy.

  22. David Eddyshaw says

    Presumably הלוואי שיעמוד halvay she-yaamod. “If only it will stand.” But my Hebrew only extends to the Biblical sort.

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D7%94%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%95%D7%90%D7%99

    There are Hatters who will Actually Know.

    [EDIT: Told you! Owlmirror did know.]

  23. Thanks, Owlmirror and DE!

  24. David Eddyshaw says

    The idea seems a bit Gnostic. In fact, very Gnostic.

  25. Stu Clayton says

    Yes, thanks ! Remains the meaty matter of 26.

    Perhaps Marcion had a subscription to Talmud ?

    My rule of thumb is: anything counts as gnostic that is both loopy and mopey. The later Charlie Chaplin, for instance.

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    I think they had* cheery Gnostics as well as mopey: if you think that matter is basically bad, you could either

    (a) have nothing to do with crass material things and mortify your flesh (mopey)

    or

    (b) say: well, none it it is really real anyway, so I’ll do whatever I feel like doing (cheery)

    Even the mopey sort had, of course, the satisfaction of knowing that they were right and everybody else was wrong. This is a pleasure not to be underestimated.

    * Perhaps I should say, rather, “have.” I think I’ve mentioned before that I actually know a Mandaean, the Mandaeans being the last actual real** Gnostics (as opposed to cosplaying isn’t-the-Gospel-of-Thomas-deep types.) She generally seems quite cheerful.

    ** But, what is “real”?

  27. Stu Clayton says

    It’s a win-win choice. I bet both behaviors were covered in Games People Play, under slightly different names.

  28. Stu Clayton says

    ** But, what is “real”?

    Hegel roped that one in: Erscheinen ist Sein für Anderes. Things are not as they seem ? Not to worry ! They seem, therefore they are.

  29. John Emerson says

    Per Klimkeit, some of the Central Asian Manichaeans could be almost cheery.

    But are Manichaeans really Gnostics?

  30. David Eddyshaw says

    Hegel roped that one in

    That’s a relief. I was beginning to worry.
    I find Hegel such a comfort (but don’t we all?)

    But are Manichaeans really Gnostics?

    Merely Gnosticoid.*

    * I just wanted to use the word “Gnosticoid”, sorry. Given that there were all sorts of Gnostics, believing all sorts of very different things, I can’t see any profound objection to lumping the Manichaeans in too, myself. But they didn’t subscribe to the whole series-of-progressively-sillier-spiritual-beings-ending-up-with-the-positively-retarded-Creator thing. They were a bit more entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, if I remember right.

  31. Stu Clayton says

    In homeopathic doses, yes, a comfort. And almost as quotable as Dorothy Parker.

  32. John Emerson says

    As far as silliness goes, in my opinion the triune God with the two natures of Christ stirred in should be silly enough for anyone. It sure has led to enough unintelligible arguments, anyway. And original sin plus the mysterious grace of God plus the visible signs of invisible grace is equally silly, but also pretty damn harsh.

  33. David Eddyshaw says

    The silliness in Gnosticism is atttributed to the spiritual beings themselves, rather than to the doctrine about them.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeon_(Gnosticism)

    Personally, I rather like Gnosticism as an intellectual system*, and wouldn’t attribute silliness to it, merely falsity.

    * Though not as much as I like Epicureanism. Lucretius is Da Man.

  34. And almost as quotable as Dorothy Parker.

    Hence the popular parlor game Hegel or Parker? Here, see if you can guess which one this is:

    But what is truly the universal is intuition, while what is truly particular is the absolute concept. Thus each must be posited over against the other, now under the form of particularity, again under the form of universality; now intuition must be subsumed under the concept and again the concept under intuition. Although this last relation is the absolute one, for the reason given, the first one is just as absolutely necessary for their perfect equality to be known, since the latter relation is one and only one relation and therefore the absolute equivalence of intuition and knowledge is not posited in it. Now the Idea of the absolute ethical order is the resumption of absolute reality into itself as into a unity, so that this resumption and this unity are an absolute totality.

  35. David Eddyshaw says

    The waspish tone is a dead giveway. Parker, obvs.

  36. I think the key number is not the twenty-six previous creations, but that our universe is number twenty-seven (clearly a mystical number).

  37. David Eddyshaw says

    Indeed: Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison …

  38. Trond Engen says

    Anacolyte n. minor member of the clergy or instituted lay person aiding in the celebration of mass by reading the wrong chapter from the gospel or performing rites unnecessarily or at improper times .

    Sounds sort of gnostic, actually.

  39. Trond Engen says

    The choice of twenty-six specifically may be due to number mysticism, but more broadly, surely, the meaning is “He tried to create a lot of times, and this creation just happens to be the first that even made it out of the shop,” Statistical cosmogony.

  40. David Eddyshaw says

    Presumably, in-universe (the twenty-seventh universe, that is), the number twenty-seven is going to be mystical just because it’s the twenty-seventh universe …

  41. David Eddyshaw says

    Is this actually Talmudic? There is a striking lack of actual citations …

    I can find a reference to previous creations in the Genesis Rabbah (IX, 2), referenced in the WP article on “Jewish views on evolution”, though no numbers, and this is not Talmud …

    Again, some Hatter will Actually Know …

  42. Stu Clayton, et al –

    Perhaps everyone knows this and is just engaged in some amusing punning, but perhaps not – if I’m being pedantic you’ll let me know.

    Halevy/Halévy (הלוי) and halevai/halvai/alevai (הלוואי) are unrelated words – differently spelled, differently pronounced, different origins.

    Halevy, pronounced Ha-LAY-vee, means “the Levite.” (The definite article in Hebrew is a prefix – “ha.”) People with that surname come from a patrilineal line that claims to originate in the tribe of Levi, whose male members had priestly duties in Biblical times. The name originated as a title – as in Judah Ha-Levi, a 12th-century poet. Even today Levites have some very minor roles to play in Jewish ritual practices. Many Jewish surnames have more or less this meaning – Levy, Levin, Levine, Lewin, Lewinsky, Halevy, etc.

    Halevai, pronounced hal-uh-VAI, is not Biblical. It appears in a commentary, or Midrash, on the book of Genesis, that was written most likely in the 3rd c CE. These commentaries are in not the Talmud, although that’s a degree of detail that I wouldn’t expect most people to bother with.

    In a modern translation, you can read God’s use of the phrase halevai she-yaamod, although when you read the whole thing you can see that it’s in an account of rabbis arguing and speculating about what God might have said and done and why, which is a lot of what a Midrash is:

    “[T]he Holy One of Blessing said, Behold I create it [the world] with an expression of blessing, and hopefully it will endure.”

    https://www.sefaria.org/Bereishit_Rabbah.1.10?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

    IIMHO the best translation is indeed “hopefully,” in the meaning that peevers love to hate. It’s often, and less clearly, translated as if only, would that, let it be that, etc. Presumably the translators are people who’ve been taught not to say hopefully.

    Note that one translation that’s NOT available is “God willing,” for obvious reasons.

    The “twenty-six” is in the same chapter and does not directly refer to the number of times God created the world. Instead, it appears in a sentence attributed to the letter “A” (aleph) who is complaining that although he’s the first letter of the alphabet, the first word of Genesis does not begin with him, and instead begins with the second letter “B” (bet) – B’resheet, in the beginning. Aleph is said to have complained for 26 generations, and you can read that if you want as meaning that he complained 26 times, each time the world was created.

    So – not something you want to take too literally.

  43. The word הַלְוַאי halǝway is better translated as Spanish ojalá. In English it’s usually rendered with an awkward subjunctive.

    Caputo’s footnote says: “Cited by André Neher, ‘Visions du temps et l’histoire dans la culture juive,’ in Les Cultures et le temps, ed. UNESCO, Introduction by Paul Ricoeur (Paris: Les presses de l’UNESCO, 1975), 179. This text is cited by Catherine Keller, Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming (London: Routledge, 2003), 193–94, who is citing Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order out of Chaos (Boulder: New Science Library, 1984), 313, whose translation (from the French) we are using.”

    I haven’t found Neher’s article, and it’s just as well. It’s a mish-mash from Midrash Bereshit Rabba (‘The Great Exegesis on Genesis’), 1:10, and it’s halǝway ya’ămod, without the sh- relativizer. (So much for checking primary sources. Grumble, grumble.)
    The translation is not clear on the pun: א is the first letter of ארר ‘to curse’, ב is the first letter of ברך brk ‘to bless’.

  44. jinx!

  45. Thanks to both of you — that’s very satisfying!

  46. “Twenty-six generations” refers to the time between the creation of the world and the giving of the Torah.

  47. David Eddyshaw says

    Bloix, Y: thanks!

    (I thought Caputo’s tale sounded a bit fishy …)

  48. Sounds like yet another example of literary people distorting philology to get the cool results they want. Here’s a quote from the translation at Bloix’s excellent link, containing the phrase in question:

    Why not with an “aleph”? So as not to give an argument to the heretics, who would say ‘how could the world endure since it was created with an expression of curse?’ Rather, the Holy One of Blessing said: ‘behold I create it with an expression of blessing, and hopefully it will endure.’

  49. Note how odd it seems to have a God who can’t get creation right the first time; a God who is concerned about giving arguments to heretics; a God who, although omnipotent and omniscient, can only hope that his creation will endure; a God who talks to letters.

    But remember that these Rabbis were living at a highly precarious time for Judaism. The Romans destroyed the Temple after the First Jewish War in 70 – a failed War of Independence that resulting in the burning of the city. Worse, the Romans put down down 4-year Bar Kochba Revolt in the 160s with horrific brutality – genocide, in fact – aimed at ending the connection between Judaism and the land of Israel forever. By the time of these Rabbis, a religion founded on pilgrimage and animal sacrifice had no city for pilgrims to travel to and no Temple where sacrifices could be made. And there were plenty of heretics – Christians, of course, but others, too – who were delighted to curse those Jews who remained loyal to the old ways.

    These rabbis were engaged in a reconstruction of what it meant to be Jewish – a second creation, in effect – by replacing pilgrimage and sacrifice with communal prayer and study: a replacement of physical acts with words. There was no guarantee that this would work, but halevai ya’amod – hopefully the new order would endure. And so the rabbis searched for, and found, a sign that God was supportive of their project. In the very first letter of the very first word of the Holy Scriptures, they saw that God chose to start his book not with an A, a curse, but with a B, a blessing – on a new creation that would use words to create a bond between the people and their God.

    I like this story very much. Most of the time, if you asked me about my beliefs, I would say I’m an atheist – an A. But when I’m feeling spiritual, which happens from time to time, I’d say I’m a Spinozist. And Spinoza’s first name was Benedictus/Baruch, both names meaning blessing, and both starting with B. Being a Spinozist, it would be silly for me to think that there’s a personal God who would be interested in sending me personally a sign. But stories can be very nice without having to be true.

  50. Agreed on all counts, and thanks for a great comment.

  51. Owlmirror says

    The phrase occurs a couple more times in Bereshit Rabba:

    https://www.sefaria.org/Bereishit_Rabbah.12.15

    God [was like a] king who had empty glasses. The king said “if I put hot water in them, then they will expand and break, and if I put cold water in them, they will contract and shatter. What did the king do? He mixed hot water with the cold water and put them in the glasses. So too the Holy One of Blessing said: if I create the world with the attribute of compassion alone, no one would be concerned with the consequences of their actions. With the attribute of judgment alone, how could the world stand? Rather, behold I create it with both the attribute of judgment and the attribute of compassion, and hopefully it will stand.

    [ella hare ani bore otho bemiddath haddin uvemiddath harakhamim, vehalleva ya’amod. ]

    https://www.sefaria.org/Bereishit_Rabbah.14.8

    There’s no English translation for this part. Bloix or Y could probably do it better, but my own attempt is:

    From the earth (Gen 2:7). Rabbi Berechyah and Rabbi Ḥelbo explained this from Rabbi Shmu’el bar Naḥman: [Adam] was created from the place of his [method of? means of?] atonement, for as it says: “Make for me an altar of earth” (Exo 20:24). The Holy One said: “For I shall create him from the place of his atonement, and hopefully he shall endure”.

  52. That’s quite good!

    “from Rabbi Shmu’el”, should be “after Rabbi Shmu’el”, i.e. they are citing the original source.

    It’s a place of absolution (better than ‘atonement’): namely, the Foundation Stone, where the world began to be created and where Isaac was to be sacrificed, and around which the Temple was built.

    I can’t see God saying “hopefully”. “May he endure” is a better translation.

    There’s an error in the pointing: מִמָּקוֹם mimmāqōm should be מִמְּקוֹם mimmǝqōm, i.e. ‘from a place of’, in the construct case, not the absolutive case. Further down they have it right.

  53. my gematria skills are rusty to say the least, but יהוה is 26, which seems relevant.

    176 isn’t a classic like that, so i don’t have anything in my head for הלואי יעמד. but a glance at torahcalc.com told me that in a different system it comes out to 77, which is at least a Magic Number.

  54. per incuriam says

    Incidentally, I discover that déformation professionnelle is French for “nerdview.”

    With the greatest respect for the learned Free Encyclopedia, the two terms are not at all equivalent.

    A déformation professionnelle is when job habits carry over into life outside work (a baker getting up early on days off, a linguist eavesdropping on the next table…).

    Nerdview, on the other hand, is a failure to communicate.

  55. per incuriam says

    The secondhand royalty scheme rubs me the wrong way

    A letter to The Times (from 2005):

    Sir,

    Should a royalty be paid to authors on second-hand sales of their books (report, January 29)? Quite the contrary. During 30 years of new and second-hand bookselling I have fended off the hordes of customers trying to sell back to me last year’s over-hyped, second-rate bestsellers. Authors should refund their royalties on books so soon unloved and discarded.

    As it happens, publishers, with their cardboard “cloth” covers, yellowing paper and unyielding bindings, have nearly perfected the book that disintegrates before it can be resold.

    Yours,

    David Mitchell

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