A CACHE of as yet unseen Franz Kafka manuscripts will be made available online to scholars after an Israeli court ruled they weren't given as a gift to the secretary of the author's executor and friend, Max Brod.
According to the Tel Aviv Family Court decision, the papers, which were stashed away in safes and attics for years, will become the property of the National Library of Israel, which promised to scan and put them on its website.
"We are talking about a historical decision that brought justice to Max Brod and his friend Kafka," said Meir Heller, a lawyer for the library.
Harel Ashwall, the lawyer for the secretary's two daughters, disagreed and said he planned to appeal against the ruling.
The director of the Kafka Project at San Diego State University, Kathi Diamant, has said that papers that may be part of the collection may help scholars locate some Kafka notebooks that the Gestapo confiscated from the author's companion, Dora Diamant.
The dispute over the papers began with Brod, a German-language author best known for his Kafka biography and historical novels. Though Kafka's last wish was for his papers to be burnt, Brod kept them, ensuring the publication of The Trial and The Castle.
When Brod died in 1968, he left his estate to his secretary Esther Hoffe, who then left it to her daughters. The court ruled that the will intended for Brod's literary estate, including the Kafka manuscripts, to be given to a public institution and kept intact.
"We think that the decision does not reflect the intentions and desire of Max Brod, in fact the opposite is true," Mr Ashwall said in a response to the ruling. "We also think the ruling is flawed in legal terms."
For decades, Ms Hoffe declined to make the papers available to the public, frustrating archivists and scholars alike.
When the sisters, now in their 70s, attempted to ratify their mother's will in January 2008, the state of Israel intervened. The case landed in the family court, where the National Library became a party to the proceedings.
The library plans to catalogue and preserve the papers. "[Then], in the not so distant future, scan and open them up to all on the internet, in this way fulfilling Brod's will," said the library's director, Oren Weinberg.
During her lifetime, Ms Hoffe sold a handwritten manuscript of Kafka's The Trial for $1.98 million at a 1988 Sotheby's auction in London.