The Castle HTML version
"Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me... in the way of diaries, manuscripts,
letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread.... Yours, Franz Kafka"
These famous words written to Kafka's friend Max Brod have puzzled Kafka's readers ever
since they appeared in the postscript to the first edition of _The Trial__, published in 1925, a year
after Kafka's death. We will never know if Kafka really meant for Brod to do what he asked; Brod
believed that it was Kafka's high artistic standards and merciless self-criticism that lay behind the
request, but he also believed that Kafka had deliberately asked the one person he knew would not
honor his wishes (because Brod had explicitly told him so). We do know, however, that Brod
disregarded his friend's request and devoted great energy to making sure that all of Kafka's works--
his three unfinished novels, his unpublished stories, diaries, and letters--would appear in print. Brod
explained his reasoning thus:
My decision [rests] simply and solely on the fact that Kafka's unpublished work contains the
most wonderful treasures, and, measured against his own work, the best things he has written. In all
honesty I must confess that this one fact of the literary and ethical value of what I am publishing
would have been enough to make me decide to do so, definitely, finally, and irresistibly, even if I
had had no single objection to raise against the validity of Kafka's last wishes. (From the Postscript
to the first edition of The Trial)
In 1925, Max Brod convinced the small avant-garde Berlin publisher Verlag Die Schmiede
to publish _The Trial__, which Brod prepared for publication from Kafka's unfinished manuscript.
Next he persuaded the Munich publisher Kurt Wolff to publish his edited manuscript of _The
Castle__, also left unfinished by Kafka, in 1926, and in 1927 to bring out Kafka's first novel, which
Kafka had meant to entitle _Der Verschollene__ (The Man Who Disappeared), but which Brod
named _Amerika__. Wolff later noted that very few of the 1,500 copies of _The Castle__ he printed
were sold. The first English translation of _The Castle__, by Edwin and Willa Muir, was published
in Britain in 1930 by Secker & Warburg and in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf. Though
recognized by a small circle as an important book, it did not sell well.
Undeterred, Max Brod enlisted the support of Martin Buber, Hermann Hesse, Heinrich
Mann, Thomas Mann, and Franz Werfel for a public statement urging the publication of Kafka's
collected works as "a spiritual act of unusual dimensions, especially now, during times of chaos."
Since Kafka's previous publishers had closed during Germany's economic depression, he appealed
to Gustav Kiepenheuer to undertake the project. Kiepenheuer agreed, but on condition that the first