#89 / Editorial

Who does Kafka belong to? We know the story, which has become legendary: before his death in 1924, Kafka wrote a testament letter to his friend Max Brod asking him to “burn without restriction” all his manuscripts. Brod went against his wishes and became the heir, the editor, and the first guardian of Kafka’s posterity, dedicating part of his life to making his friend’s work known. And indeed, in the space of a few decades, a small, unknown Jewish author from Prague became one of the most important literary figures of the 20th century. Benjamin Balint had devoted a breathtaking investigation – Kafka’s Last Trial:The Case of a Literary Legacy (W.W. Norton, 2018) – to the fate of these manuscripts: their departure from Europe in 1939, their survival in Israel where they were taken by Max Brod, and their legacy to Brod’s mistress Esther Hoffe, who left them to her own daughter Eva. Successive transmissions which, from the 1970s onwards, were contested: first by the Israeli National Library, then by the German Literary Archives in Marbach. The case went all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court. Starting with Benjamin Balint’s book, Philippe Zard looks back at what he reads as a “literary-political thriller, set against a backdrop of legal conflict and a war of memory” in which Europe (in this case Germany) and Israel symbolically fought over the final destination of the archives of the author of The Trial.

As we wait for the release on Netflix of the third season of the Turkish series Kulüp [The Club] – a look at the history of the Jewish community in Istanbul in the 1950s – K. looks back this week at this programme shot in Ladino, in which dozens of Turkish Jews played. An unprecedented visibility was given to a minority in a country where Jews are more generally represented in a caricatured and malicious way. The text by François Azar recalls how the Jews of Turkey have gone from 100,000 people at the beginning of the century to 10,000 today, and sets the series in its historical context. He thus focuses on one of the last Jewish communities in the Muslim world, which seems to be on borrowed time today.

The third article in K. this week is a testimony – a personal and intimate account, but one that touches on the history of a language and its dispersed community. Who are the Judeo-Spanish? Alain de Tolédo tells how his particular ancestry, at first poorly understood, became a motif of his life.

The story is well known: Kafka asked his friend Max Brod to destroy his manuscripts. Not only did Max Brod not do so, but he became the guardian of the writer’s memory, his biographer and publisher, the owner of most of his manuscripts – which he took to Israel. Who owns all these archives today? In his book-investigation, Benjamin Balint followed the events surrounding Kafka’s manuscripts, from the political and literary quarrels to the judicial outcome. Philippe Zard returns for K. to the story of a misheritage.

There were 100,000 Turkish Jews at the beginning of the century, but now there are only 10,000. One of the last Jewish communities in the Muslim world, faced with new challenges, seems to be on the verge of collapse. François Azar looks back at the history of a minority that has traditionally cultivated kayadez (discretion in the public space) but that plans to make itself more visible in Turkish society.

When he was a child, Alain de Toledo thought that “Spanish” meant “Jewish”. Then, he realized that the Spanish he spoke at home was not the same as the one he was taught at school… In his story for K., through the evocation of his family’s destiny and the gradual awareness of the fate to which he belongs, he recounts what makes the singularity of a language and of the group of those who have carried it to the present day.

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.