Kafka’s Last Trial

The Case of a Literary Legacy


When Franz Kafka died in 1924, his loyal friend Max Brod could not bring himself to fulfill Kafka’s last instruction: to burn his remaining manuscripts. Instead, Brod devoted his life to championing Kafka’s work, rescuing his legacy from both obscurity and physical destruction. Nearly a century later, an international legal battle erupted to determine which country could claim ownership: the Jewish state, where Kafka dreamed of living, or Germany, where Kafka’s three sisters perished in the Holocaust? Benjamin Balint offers a gripping account of the controversial trial in Israeli courts—brimming with dilemmas legal, ethical, and political—that determined the fate of Kafka’s manuscripts.


“Dramatic and illuminating…[R]aises momentous questions about nationality, religion, literature, and even the Holocaust.” –Adam Kirsch, The Atlantic

“Kafka’s Last Trial is a fascinating inquiry into—and meditation on—the nature of artistic genius and the proprietary claims any one individual or country has on the legacy of that genius. Benjamin Balint is both a superb investigative journalist and a gifted cultural critic. This is that rarest of books: a scholarly work that is also compulsively readable.” – Daphne Merkin, author of This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression