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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 It may also include original manuscripts of published work, which potentially have a market value; unpublished work in a finished state or partially completed; and papers of intrinsic literary interest such as correspondence or personal diaries and records.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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639 news items

New York Times

New York Times
Wed, 26 Nov 2014 09:26:15 -0800

Most important, he persuaded Tolstoy to make him his literary executor. Chertkov's motives may have gone beyond greed, obsession or love of fame. Under the pretext of making a compendium of the writer's thoughts, Chertkov had his scribes copy Tolstoy's ...

Harvard Gazette

Harvard Gazette
Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:28:46 -0800

The bulk of Harvard's collection came in 1988 by way of Williams' literary executor, Maria St. Just. “She convinced him that it should come to Harvard because she was concerned that his work should continue to be thought of in esteem,” said Hoggatt.

TheOneRing.net

TheOneRing.net
Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:00:00 -0800

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (born 21 November, 1924) is the third child and youngest son of J.R.R. Tolkien and Edith Tolkien. He is the literary executor of the Tolkien Estate and has edited much of his father's work for posthumous publication.

Telegraph.co.uk

Telegraph.co.uk
Sat, 22 Nov 2014 02:06:20 -0800

Eleanor Marx, the daughter and literary executor of Karl (as well as the first English translator of Madame Bovary) achieved as much, in her way, as did Roy Jenkins. Rachel Holmes's Eleanor Marx: a Life (Bloomsbury, £25) is a passionate and convincing ...

The New Indian Express

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Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:33:45 -0800

HYDERABAD: Ridhima's debut book 'Seven Uncommoners', is born out of conversations with people who embody the entrepreneurial spirit that defines India. An avid runner whose personal best is 3.24 in a full marathon, Ridhima loves to dance and do yoga ...

The Oregonian - OregonLive.com

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Wed, 19 Nov 2014 07:31:57 -0800

It's humiliating to be poor, to be dependent on the kindness of family and friends and government subsidies. But it sure is an education." John Callahan, an English professor at Lewis & Clark College and Ralph Ellison's literary executor, will discuss ...

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Thu, 13 Nov 2014 08:36:27 -0800

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Olga Ivinskaya, Pasternak's close friend and literary executor, was tried secretly in 1960 for alleged currency smuggling and sentenced to eight years. Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who held the world's copyright for “Dr. Zhivago” and who ...
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