Up in smoke: should an author’s dying wishes be obeyed? | Books | The Guardian
Sat 10 Mar
Harper Lee never wanted Go Set a Watchman brought out, Sylvia Plath’s diary was burned by Ted Hughes – the controversial world of literary legacies
And then there’s Foucault, the fourth volume of whose major work The History of Sexuality existed only as a first draft when he died in 1984, but has just been released under the title Confessions of the Flesh. “The rights-holders of Michel Foucault considered that the time and the conditions had come to publish this major unreleased work,” the philosopher Frédéric Gros writes in his introduction, though Foucault was clearly opposed. “Pas de publication posthume,” he used to tell friends. “Don’t pull the Max Brod-Kafka trick on me.” It may have been Foucault who was playing a trick, since Brod is the most famous example of an executor serving posterity by denying the author’s wishes. “Dearest Max,” Kafka wrote when he was dying of TB, “Everything that I leave behind in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters of my own and from others, sketches, etc … should be burned, completely and unread.” But Brod had already told Kafka he wouldn’t oblige him. Throughout their “unclouded friendship”, Brod “never once threw away the smallest scrap of paper that came from [Kafka], no, not even a postcard”, and he wasn’t about to start now. Without Brod, The Trial, The Castle and Amerika would never have been published.