The artistic legacy of writer Jorge Luis Borges, guarded until last month by his late widow María Kodama, may be passed onto the author’s nephews and nieces, a lawyer has revealed.
Kodama, an author, translator and literature professor, as well as Borges' heiress and executor of his estate, died in Buenos Aires on March 26 at the age of 86.
Upon her death, it was widely reported that she had left behind plans outlining the next steps for Borges’ legacy. But according to her lawyer, Fernando Soto, she did not leave a will, despite reports to the contrary.
"This Tuesday, five nephews and nieces, children of Jorge Kodama [María's late brother], presented themselves, proving the link. They are in Argentina. Now there are heirs, which relieves me a lot," Soto told the AFP news agency.
"She had the intention of making a will, but that had not been arranged," the lawyer said.
"I then opened a probate file, which I considered vacant, to take care of the assets and to wait for the heirs to come forward," he revealed
On Tuesday it was confirmed that a writ signed by Mariana del Socorro Kodama, Martín Nicolás Kodama, Matías Kodama, María Belén Kodama and María Victoria Kodama had been filed with a local civil court.
"We present ourselves in our capacity as nieces and nephews and sole heirs of the deceased sister of our father Jorge Kodama,” reads the document signed by the five siblings, which calls for an urgent series of measures to be taken to “determine the content of the estate ... for the purpose of safeguarding the assets of the inheritance.”
In recent months, Kodama, who was ill with cancer, had lived alone at a hotel in Buenos Aires. She had been estranged from her brother Jorge and his family for decades, according to relatives and told her inner circle that, following the death of her mother and father, she was alone in the world.
In the absence of an heir, Borges' estate, which includes properties as well as his library and manuscripts, among other assets, would have been left in the custody of the state.
It remains unclear who will be the writer’s literary executor until the rights to his work are released. According to Argentine law, the copyright on Borges' work does not expire until 2056.
"The nephews and nieces will probably appoint an administrator, not an executor, to look after the work in the interim, until the declaration of heirs is issued," Soto said.
Kodama, who was also a writer as well as a translator, was a collaborator of Borges. She became his universal heir in 1979.
In an interview last August, Kodama told the La Nación newspaper that she had arranged to deliver part of the literary estate to a Japanese university and that the other part would go to a United States university.
She gave no further details, except for two conditions – that both the Spanish language and the works of Borges be studied in the Japanese university while the US university should be one where the author had lectured (i.e. Harvard or the University of Texas).
Borges, the author of Ficciones, El Aleph and Inquisiciones, is considered to be one of the most important writers of the 20th century, as well as one of Argentina’s greatest. He died at the age of 86 in June 1986 in Geneva, two months after marrying Kodama, who was 38 years younger and had been his partner since her youth.
Following the death of Argentina’s greatest writer, Kodama took on the administration of the most important literary estate in the Spanish language of the 20th century. She negotiated editions and translations directly, as well as overseeing legal action against authors accused of plagiarising famous Borgean texts.
Kodama also created the Fundación Borges in Buenos Aires, of which she was the director. Her inheritance includes the house serving as its headquarters, in the Recoleta neighbourhood, as well as flats in Buenos Aires, Paris and Geneva, her lawyer said.
It is not known exactly what is included in the writer's archive, which has not been catalogued by any international institution.
As for the publication of Borges' work, Penguin-Random House has confirmed that it will continue with its existing publishing plan, which includes a reissue of his first book, Fervor de Buenos Aires, a collection of poems from 1923.
The centenary of the work’s publication will be celebrated at the next Buenos Aires Book Fair, which starts on April 20.