Evan Kindley examines Franz Kafka's desire to have his works destroyed after his death, his literary executor Max Brod's decision to disregard that command, and the result of Brod's decision, here, in an essay for The Nation.
Brod, in particular, felt a “fanatical veneration” for his friend’s talent and took it as his mission to combat the depressive Kafka’s extreme reluctance to publish his work. “I wrested from Kafka nearly everything he published [during his lifetime] either by persuasion or guile,” Brod recalled. “At times I stood over him like a rod, drove him and forced him…again and again by new means and new tricks…. What mattered to me was the thing itself, the helping of a friend even against the wish of the friend.” When Kafka finally did publish a book—the 1912 short-story collection Meditation—Brod was there to give it one of its few reviews, which included the following statement: “I could easily imagine someone getting hold of this book and finding his whole life altered from that moment on, and realizing he would become a new person.”