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A literary executor is a person with decision-making power in respect of a literary estate. According to Wills, Administration and Taxation: a practical guide (1990, UK)[1] "A will may appoint different executors to deal with different parts of the estate. One example of this is the appointment of a literary executor to deal with literary effects [...]".

Literary estates[edit]

The literary estate of an author who has died will often consist mainly of the copyright and other intellectual property rights of published works, including for example film and translation rights. It may also include original manuscripts of published work, which potentially have a market value; unpublished work in a finished state or partially completed; and papers of intrinsic literary interest such as correspondence or personal diaries and records. In academia, the German term Nachlass for the legacy of papers is often used.

Since the literary estate is a legacy to the author's heirs, the management of it in financial terms is a responsibility of trust. The position of literary executor has more to it than the simple monetary aspect, though. Appointment to such a position, perhaps informally, is often a matter of the author's choice during his or her lifetime.

If a sympathetic and understanding friend is in the position of literary executor, there can be obvious tensions: what is to be managed is not just a portfolio of intellectual property, but a posthumous reputation. Wishes of the deceased author may have been clearly expressed but are not always respected. Family members often express strong feelings about privacy of the dead. For example, biographical writing is likely to be of a quite different authority if it is carried out with access to private papers. The literary executor then becomes a gatekeeper.

Examples[edit]

Examples of literary executors include Sir Edward Marsh for Rupert Brooke, Robert Baldwin Ross for Oscar Wilde, Robert Hayward Barlow for H. P. Lovecraft, Rush Rhees for Ludwig Wittgenstein, Otto Nathan for Albert Einstein, and Regine Olsen for Søren Kierkegaard.

A particularly notorious example is Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche for Friedrich Nietzsche, as she resorted to fraud to make her brother's Nachlass more compatible with Nazi ideology.[2][dead link] An exceptionally productive example is that of Rudolf Steiner. Although he did not originally intend that the stenographs of his thousands of lectures to be published, he relented and named his second wife, Marie Steiner-von Sivers, to direct his Nachlass, which has produced more than three hundred volumes since his death in 1925.

Older examples of such appointments, such as Kenelm Digby for Ben Jonson, are essentially editorial rather than legal. A contemporary case is Christopher Tolkien's work on J. R. R. Tolkien's papers.

A notable example is the case of Franz Kafka, who left no will. His friend Max Brod assumed the function of literary executor, though most of the literary estate was instead legally owned by Marianne Steiner and Vera Saudková.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Barlow, J. S., King, L. C., King, A. G. (1990). Wills, Administration and Taxation: a practical guide. Sweet and Maxwell, London. p. 192. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Reed, T. J. "Pasley, Sir John Malcolm". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94106.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_executor — Please support Wikipedia.
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633 news items

The Guardian

The Guardian
Wed, 04 Feb 2015 06:16:36 -0800

It would take me the best part of 10 years to research and write her life, and that means I am too old. But I am also a literary executor in her will, and in that role I gave myself the sack as her biographer.” Now he and his fellow executors are ...

The Pioneer Log

The Pioneer Log
Wed, 25 Feb 2015 15:37:30 -0800

Callahan, who has taught at the College for almost fifty years, was a close friend of Ellison's and now serves as the literary executor of his estate. He has been responsible for numerous posthumous publications of Ellison's work including the novel ...

OregonLive.com

OregonLive.com
Mon, 23 Feb 2015 12:15:00 -0800

Inarritu also thanked Tess Gallagher, Carver's widow and literary executor, for allowing him to use "Beginners," one of Carver's short stories, in "Birdman." Inarritu and his collaborators used the version of "Beginners" that was originally published ...
 
Northwest Arkansas News
Sun, 22 Feb 2015 01:22:30 -0800

Ford served as a pallbearer at Welty's funeral and was her literary executor. Ford also co-edited Welty's collected writings for volumes published by Library of America. QUIZZICAL RESULTS: BrainFall, a leading interactive media company that produces ...

The Orcadian

The Orcadian
Tue, 24 Feb 2015 03:37:30 -0800

... Peter, Graham and Anne and the rest of his family and friends.” After the death of George Mackay Brown, Mr Bevan, a close friend of the writer and poet, became his literary executor. In 2000, he was awarded an MBE for services to the St Magnus ...

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 11:59:54 -0800

The author had urged his wife to burn the unfinished manuscript, which existed only in the preliminary form of handwritten index cards. She procrastinated, and the task was bequeathed to his son and literary executor, Dmitri Nabokov, who instead ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Fri, 06 Feb 2015 09:50:50 -0800

For agents who manage the posthumous estates of great writers, a great deal depends on what kind of instructions have been left by the author or the literary executor he or she appoints – if, indeed, there is an executor. Georges Borchardt, whose ...

Irish Times

Irish Times
Wed, 18 Feb 2015 07:00:00 -0800

Q.1. Popular fiction author Marian Keyes recently started a weekly column for which paper? q1 Marian Keyes. The Irish Daily Mail; Sunday Times; Sunday Independent; The Observer. Q.2. Who was Franz Kafka's friend and literary executor? q2 Kafka.
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