Franz Kafka and the Executor

kafka-120Franz Kafka kept far more of his work in the drawer than he sent out into the world. At the time of his death at age forty, he’d published only a few collections of short stories and some single shorts. He left all his papers, unpublished works, partially completed books, and letters to his friend Max Brod, with instructions to burn them.

Max Brod intended to do no such thing. He said as much to Kafka. He planned to publish whatever he could.  His reasoning–if Kafka had wanted them destroyed that badly, he would have chosen another executor. He didn’t, therefore Kafka must really have agreed with Brod’s plan.

Brod took all the manuscripts with him when he emigrated to Israel, and published many of the stories plus the three novels. (The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika) When he died, he left Kafka’s papers–thousands of pages, and Kafka was thought to have burned about 90% of his work before his death–to his secretary, who in turn left them to her daughters. The family and the State of Israel are still duking it out in the courts about ownership.

This is some seriously fouled up estate planning, though the world does have access to the literary masterpieces that were intended to go up in smoke.

So–have you appointed anyone trustworthy to mind your hard drive when you’re gone? If you have intellectual property, do you have the details compiled, so that your literary executor knows who the contracts are with, and can tend your literary output to benefit the people you care about?

Are they on board with your intentions? And can they get at the passwords?

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