Franz Kafka died from tuberculosis of the larynx at the age of 41 in 1924, leaving no Will. But to his great friend and first biographer Max Brod he gave the impassioned instruction: “whatever diaries, manuscripts, letters from myself or others, drawings, etc. you find among the things I leave behind … please burn every bit of it without reading it, and do the same with any writings or drawings that you have, or that you can obtain from others …”.

With pious disobedience Brod ignored this request, but despite some hesitations he never published the drawings in any quantity. Many of them were lost until very recently, when after a prolonged legal battle the National Library of Israel obtained possession of the majority. Brod had given his entire Kafka archive to his assistant and “collaborator”, Ilse Hoffe (whom he renamed Esther, reflecting their shared strong support of Zionism). In the intervening years some of the drawings were acquired by the Bodleian Library in Oxford, some by the German Literature Archive in Marbach, and a few by the Albertina in Vienna.