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Kafka’s Personal Library Returns Home to Prague

February 28, 2002
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A reconstruction of Franz Kafka’s personal library is finding a home in the Jewish writer’s hometown.

The library, which contains more than 1,000 books, magazines, almanacs and anthologies, was brought to the Czech capital Wednesday by representatives of the German car company Porsche, who gave the library to the Prague-based Franz Kafka Society.

The collection was put together by a bookseller in Frankfurt who painstakingly reconstructed all the books that Kafka, who was born in Prague and wrote in German, was known to have read or given away.

The collection includes some first editions of his works, as well as books about the author and his times.

The books are not the original tomes that lined Kafka’s own library. But enthusiasts hope the collection, which has been valued at $110,000, will provide an insight into the influences that shaped Kafka’s works, including his masterpieces, “The Trial” and “The Castle.”

The Czech Republic’s chief rabbi, Karol Sidon, himself a Kafka enthusiast, said he was happy to see the library return to Prague.

“This library, in a concrete sense, will bring us the essence of Kafka,” he said. “It will be an important tool for the specialist in Kafka’s writing.”

The gift from Porsche also was welcomed by the Franz Kafka Society, a cultural group dedicated to preserving the cultural plurality of a region where Czechs, Germans and Jews lived side by side for centuries.

“We are very pleased that the books are coming here,” said the director of the Franz Kafka Society, Marta Zelezna. “Many people from around the world come to Prague looking for some message about his personality, but until now there has been really nothing for them. This is a great chance for us to offer something to visitors.”

The library is expected to open in May at the society’s headquarters in the Jewish Quarter of Prague.

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