May 1884: Kafka’s literary executor Max Brod is born

Max Brod

Max Brod, an important representative of Prague Jewish German literature, was born 140 years ago, on May 27, 1884. He is best known as the saviour of Franz Kafka's work.

Max Brod  (1915) | Photo: Passfotografie Max Brod,  1915,  סימול ARC. 4* 2000 08 014,  Max Brod Archive/The National Library of Israel

Max Brod was born into the family of a German-speaking clerk. After graduating from law school he worked as a postal, financial and court clerk. From 1929 to 1939 he was theatre and music critic for the newspaper Prager Tagblatt. He was also vice-president of the Jewish National Council in Czechoslovakia.

Brod was a good friend of future literary giant Franz Kafka and is known as the man who saved the writer’s work for the world. He did not burn Kafka‘s short stories and novels, despite his express wishes, but instead sorted and published them. He also wrote several studies on Kafka and edited his works.

Brod was a multi-talented intellectual and published author in his own right. He translated from English, Latin, Hebrew and French. His scholarly, collecting and editorial activities also helped the works of Franz Werfel, Jaroslav Hašek and Leoš Janáček reach a broader audience. Indeed he helped to bring Hašek's Švejk to the German stage and translated the librettos of almost all of Janáček's operas into German and wrote the first ever monograph on him.

In March 1939, on the eve of the Nazi occupation, he and his wife Elsa escaped Czechoslovakia and thus survived the Holocaust. He settled in Palestine, where he worked as a dramaturge at the Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv. He died in Israel in December 1968 at the age of 84.

Max and Elsa Brod arriving in Palestine,  1939 | Photo: סימול ARC. 4* 2000 08 023,  Max Brod Archive/The National Library of Israel


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