In 1921 and 1922, Franz Kafka asked his friend, the writer and Zionist activist Max Brod, to burn all of his manuscripts, letters, and drawings in the event of his death. When Kafka died in 1924, at the age of forty-one, Brod refused to heed the request, and began trying to see that many of the writings he found were published—thus securing Kafka’s legacy among the literary of geniuses of the 20th century. Brod brought the papers with him when he fled Czechoslovakia in 1939, just before the Nazi invasion, for the Land of Israel. After a protracted legal battle, the National Library of Israel recently acquired some of these papers, which it has now digitized and made publicly available.
Although his stories rarely touch on Jewish subjects, Kafka throughout his life sought to learn more about the religion of his birth, and resented his parents for denying him a more robust Jewish education. The newly digitized materials, never before seen except by a few eyes, include several drawings. The one below is s titled “A Beggar and a Refined Patron.” (Courtesy of the National Library of Israel, Max Brod Archive.)