Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Your Last Wish About Your Journals

Before he died, Franz Kafka wrote to his literary executor and friend Max Brod: "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."

Max Brod did not follow through with that request. He published Kakfa's diaries and letters. From the point of views of millions of readers who've gained an incredible insight into the mind of one of most capable (and weird) writers, it's been an amazing gift.

But what about from journal keepers point of view?
If we entrust our journals to someone, declare that our last wish was that they are destroyed, unread, how would we feel about this betrayal? This was done for the best of reasons. Max Brod felt that Kafka's diaries should be read. He was right.

But what about Kakfa's own wishes?

Okay, I know, he is dead. He doesn't know. So what's the right thing here? To go against one man's wishes who is dead, or to deprive millions of people and many generations of these diaries?

I don't have an answer. I'm aware of the dilemma on both sides. I agree with both, and I don't know what I would have done, had I been in Max Brod's shoes.

What about you? How do you feel about this? Do you have strong feelings about either side? How would you deal with disposal of your own diaries?


  1. It's an interesting debate . . . . in my case, my journals were very personal at first-- when they were my 'pocket sized counsellor' but they they became more impersonal in the sense that life was getting better and they were generally more up beat with o dark secrets . . . then when stuff was published from them I felt quite at home . . and even did an exhibition displaying some pages from the originals . . . but two years ago when I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer they became a bit more private. Now things are OK again they're back to what I consider normal, they're public domain again and on the site as well. But whether I would anybody to see them in the entirety, I'm not sure and editing them would seem absurd.....
    Talking of diaries- I recently started a new site http://www.myimaginarylives.com - an illustrated fictional diary. Each ‘entry’ starts from fact and then rapidly dissolves into a heady mix of fiction and absurd fantasy. The reader, without the need for hallucinogenic stimulants nor industrial quantities of alcohol, travels on a somewhat bizarre fictional journey which wanders into worlds as diverse as blacksmithing, jazz, antique fountain pens and tattooing, with a cast which includes the Archbishop of Canterbury, Joanna Lumley, Grace Jones, Anaïs Nin and Arthur Schopenhauer, and, of course, my alter ego RJ.

    Please take a look and let me know what you think.
    There's an RSS if you want to follow it regularly.

    Incidentally, I'm still receiving both e-mails and RSS feeds from this site - could you cancel the e-mail notification? and just leave the RSS feed?

    A Happy new year of journal keeping!

  2. lol I was egotistical as a child ("was.." :P) and I really looked forward to having my journals published posthumously.

  3. This is such a dilemma! You have my mind reeling! I don't want my journals to be destroyed, but want my children to have them when I'm gone (all 54 and counting), but I've always written as if somebody could pick it up and read it at any time, so I've resorted to a personal code every once in a while. Yet, would I destroy someone else's if they asked me to as their dying wish? As tormented as I would be over doing such a thing because I love journals and the heart and soul that are contained in them, I probably wouldn't be able to live with myself knowing I went against someone's last request no matter how brilliant the content was, a brilliance I would never know if I had heeded the dying's wishes.