If it were any other writer, today's unfolding of events in an anonymous bank vault in Zurich would be described as Kafkaesque. But the latest twist in a legal battle over the estate of Franz Kafka probably deserves some other adjective.
Four deposit boxes were pried open. Inside were manuscripts, drawings and letters from the Czech writer that had been locked away for more than 50 years, as Kafka experts around the world waited with baited breath. But the expectant Kafka enthusiasts, historians and critics will have to wait longer, after two Israeli sisters who insist they own the papers by inheritance from their mother banned all reporting of the boxes' contents.
They were opened on the orders of Talia Koppelman, a judge from the Tel Aviv family court. Last week she also ordered the opening of six safety deposit boxes in Israeli banks containing other Kafka works.
Today's unlocking at Zurich's UBS bank of safes sealed since 1956 was attended by lawyers representing, on one side, Eve and Ruth Hoffe and the German literature archive, and, on the other, the state of Israel and its national library.