Who is Itta Shedletzky, 'Kafka Specialist'?

A scrum of Israeli lawyers and Swiss bank clerks crowded a Zurich bank vault recently, after a Tel Aviv family court ordered the opening of four safe deposit boxes belonging to the heirs of Max Brod’s secretary containing manuscripts by Franz Kafka.

A similar crowd had already visited safe deposit boxes in a Tel Aviv bank vault with the same mission. Among the inspectors was a Swiss-born Israeli literary scholar, Itta Shedletzky, who has been reductively described in the world media as a “Kafka specialist.” Shedletzky, who moved to Israel as a teenager in 1962, is that and much more.

After earning a Ph.D. in German Jewish literature and history at Hebrew University, Shedletzky worked as research assistant for the eminent scholars Jacob Katz , author of the classic “Tradition and Crisis: Jewish Society at the End of the Middle Ages,” available from NYU Press , and Uriel Tal, author of “Religion, Politics and Ideology in the Third Reich: Selected Essays” from Routledge Books .

With such rigorous mentors, Shedletzky soon became a prolific and much-esteemed scholar, working with the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem as editor of Gershom Scholem’s letters, as well as at Israel’s Franz Rosenzweig Research Centre .

Indeed, Shedletzky knows a lot about many writers in addition to Kafka, and has published on authors ranging from the ultra-renowned Heinrich Heine to the more obscure Wilhelm Wolfsohn .

Shedletzky is also the co-editor of the ongoing critical edition of the works of Else Lasker-Schüler from Suhrkamp Verlag , and the author of an afterword for Lasker- Schüler’s prose work “Land of the Hebrews” from Jerusalem’s Ibis Editions .

With her talent for rediscovering the obscure and explicating the celebrated, Shedletzky is an ideal person to evaluate the scattered, much-disputed Kafka manuscripts. As long as Itta Shedletzky is on the case, these documents, which have never been examined before by scholars, will be in good hands.

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