Brod handed some of Kafka’s papers to the Bodleian Library at Oxford but kept those which his friend had directly given to him. When Brod died in Israel in 1968, he transferred the papers to his secretary, Esther Hoffe, but instructed her to hand them to an academic institution.
Hoffe, however, kept the papers for herself and sold several of them. The original manuscript of The Trial was auctioned at Sotheby’s London in 1988 for nearly $2 million (£1.5 million).
She stored some of the documents in bank vaults in Israel and Switzerland and kept some in her apartment in Tel Aviv.
When Hoffe died in 2007, her two daughters claimed the Kafka papers as their personal inheritance. But the National Library of Israel filed a lawsuit on the grounds that Brod’s will said he wanted the archive to be transferred to the library.
After a grinding legal battle, Israel’s Supreme Court sided with the library against Hoffe’s daughters. The Israeli bank vaults were opened and investigators were able to search Hoffe’s apartment for relevant papers.
Unfortunately, the apartment was home to not just literary documents but a large collection of cats.
“There was damage to the materials,” Dr Litt told The Telegraph. “Some had been scratched by cats, others had been made wet by cats.”