The dialectics of forgetting in Kafka’s writings and will

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1 Scopus citations


Franz Kafka’s wish to destroy his literary estate after his death has been extensively written about, as was the decision of his close friend, Max Brod, not to obey it. By publishing Kafka’s work, Brod brought to light some of the twentieth century’s most celebrated works, among them The Trial, The Castle, and America. Brod’s decision and its consequences were also at the center of a legal dispute in Israeli courts for nearly 40 years. At stake was the question of whether Brod’s personal assistant and her daughters had the right to maintain control over his estate and the unpublished manuscripts written by Kafka, which it contained. In 2016, the Supreme Court ordered to archive the estate in the Israeli National library. Both Brod and, more recently, the Israeli courts ignored Kafka’s central wish—to be forgotten. Indeed, the interactions between memory, remembering, and forgetting have recently become a subject of growing interest in the field of memory studies. In light of these growing interest, this study reexamines Kafka’s last wish, and the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision, from a perspective that perceives forgetting as an integral and sometimes needed part of both individuals’ and society’s memory. It uses Kafka’s interpretations of memory, remembering, and forgetting in order to better evaluate his final wish to be forgotten. By suggesting a new understanding of some of Kafka’s most renowned novels—The Trial, The Metamorphosis, and A Report to an Academy—this study highlights the dialectics of forgetting in Kafka’s writing. For Kafka, this study proposes, forgetting is at the same time both the ultimate sin and a key to true liberation. Understanding Kafka’s forgetting dialectics contributes to the ongoing discussion about remembering and forgetting and will highlight the importance of forgetting as a central phenomenon to be recognized in memory studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory Studies
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • Kafka
  • The Trial
  • memory
  • memory studies
  • remembering and forgetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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