ONE of Franz Kafka’s best-known tales is about a man turning into a beetle.
Now examples of the author’s spidery handwriting have gone on display for the first time at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.
Letters and postcards revealing the close relationship between Kafka and his sister Ottla are the subject of a new exhibition.
The newly acquired letters of the author of The Trial and Metamorphosis are now on show at the Broad Street library.
The Liebe Ottla exhibition celebrates the acquisition of the letters in April this year with the Deutsches Literatur-archiv in Marbach, Germany.
The display includes 18 letters and 10 postcards and picture postcards.
Bodleian spokesman Oana Romocea said: “The correspondence gives an insight into Kafka’s everyday life as much as it sketches a portrait of Ottla.”
Deputy librarian Richard Ovenden added: “Following the joint acquisition of Kafka’s letters to Ottla in April, we are delighted to organise the first Oxford events in a series of joint programmes of exchanges of academic Fellows and exhibitions, as well as other research activities related to Kafka between the Bodleian, the University of Oxford and the Deutsches Literatur-archiv.”
Ottla was the youngest of Kafka’s three sisters.
In one of the letters on display, dated July 4 1918, the author remarks how well he and his sister understand each other.
Most of the exhibits are in Kafka’s own handwriting while some also contain the author’s drawings.
The exhibition also features highlights from the main Kafka collection in the Bodleian.
The library holds most of the writer’s autograph manuscripts.
Although Kafka wanted his manuscripts to be destroyed, they were rescued by the authors’ friend Max Brod, who published them.
The manuscripts themselves narrowly escaped the German Army in Prague in 1939 and, later in Tel Aviv, the Suez Crisis in 1956.
They were finally brought from Switzerland to Oxford by Sir Malcolm Pasley in 1961.
The Bodleian will mark the acquisition with a series of events in the Sheldonian Theatre on Monday, October 24, including the reading of Act I, Scene I from Alan Bennett’s play Kafka’s Dick, at 4.15pm.
The exhibition runs until Sunday, October 30.