The boxes are believed to contain thousands of manuscripts by Kafka and Brod, including letters, journals, sketches and drawings, some of which have never been published and could provide literary detetectives an insight into one of the 20th century's greatest writers.
The move in Zurich follows similar action at two Tel Aviv banks, which were ordered by an Israeli tribunal to extract Kafka's works from their vaults.
The documents form the heart of a dispute over ownership between the state of Israel and the Hoffe sisters who say they inherited Kafka's estate from their mother Esther Hoffe – Brod's secretary. Brod not only ignored Kafka's wishes but published his work and bequeathed the originals to Esther Hoffe.
Israel, however, claims that Kafka's documents are the property of the state as Brod migrated to Israel in 1939.
Esther's daughter, Eve Hoffe of Tel Aviv, is expected to be present at the opening of the boxes, along with a delegation of lawyers appointed by the court. Assisted by German literary experts and a manuscript expert, they will convey to the court a precise record of what the boxes contain. The attorneys will be assisted by German literary experts and a manuscript expert.
The judge will then decide whether to return the documents to the safety deposit boxes or transfer them to a public archive, to be published for the benefit of future generations.
Meanwhile, the Israeli court is expected to rule on Hoffe's petition calling for a gag order on the contents of the box. The Israeli paper, Haaretz, has asked the court to allow the documents to be published, citing their public and literary value.
Kafka died from tuberculosis in 1924, leaving a set of instructions to Brod: "Dearest Max, My last request: Everything I leave behind me [is] to be burned unread." But Brod instead published for the first time Kafka's novels The Trial, The Castle and Amerika.
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