Borges succession shock: widow Kodama left no will

Nephews and nieces have come forward to claim the inheritance

“She didn’t leave a will.”

The news stunned journalists attending a Monday morning press conference by Fernando Soto, the attorney of Jorge Luis Borges’ late widow and executor María Kodama, who passed away on March 26

What was expected to be a simple announcement to confirm early reports about the succession of Borges’ legacy — which includes translation rights, new editions, and unpublished material — turned into a shocking event given Kodama’s famously protective guardianship of the writer’s copyrights.

“Her trusted notary doesn’t have a will. No one we consulted among those closest to her knows anything about the will,” said Kodama’s attorney Fernando Soto. “If we find one when we get to enter her home, we will take that into consideration, but the chances are very low.”

All through Monday, there were speculations that the legacy of Argentina’s most renowned writer and former Director of the National Library would end up in the hands of the Buenos Aires City government. 

But the plot thickened this morning when Kodama’s nephews appeared today before Civil Court #94 as legal heirs of Borges’ estate. Mariana del Socorro, Martín, Nicolás and María Belén Kodama, children of Kodama’s late brother Jorge, filed a request for the court to issue a ruling appointing legal inheritors.

They reportedly also requested a provisional inventory and the seizing of assets — they include Borges’ literary works, awards, manuscripts, photos, journalistic material, and property deeds. According to Soto, Kodama’s properties also include her apartments in Buenos Aires, Paris and Geneva, and the headquarters of the Jorge Luis Borges Foundation.

“I’m relieved. The fact that the nephews have come forward as heirs opens up a new stage in the inheritance case,” Soto told Télam. He had filed a request to have the court declare a potentially vacant succession.   

Soto also explained that “the nephews can request an administrator and demand protection of those assets” and while “it would be a practical decision” for the plaintiffs to get in touch with him, they are not legally obliged to do so.

Soon after Kodama’s passing, the lawyer had publicly assured that she had left everything for a smooth transfer of the writer’s intellectual property. Kodama herself had also anticipated months ago, in an interview with La Nación, her intentions of delivering the legacy of The Aleph author to two foreign universities, and even hinted these would be the University of Tokyo, in Japan, and a US university that could either be Harvard or the University of Texas.

Kodama’s rigorous guardianship of Borges’ estate included several legal disputes. The most significant was in 2015, against writer Pablo Katchadjian, whom she sued for alleged plagiarism and fraud after he used Borges’ El Aleph for a 2009 book titled “The Fattened Aleph.” The Katchadjian case was definitively dismissed in 2017 and the Civil Justice finally ordered Kodama to pay AR$ 888,500 pesos in costs and fees.

Meanwhile, Borges’ Argentine publishers Penguin Random House confirmed to Télam that they will “keep abiding by the existing publication schedule”, which already includes “the four volumes of his Complete Works”, “three volumes of recovered texts” and “more than 25 published titles” in single books and pocket editions.

In the context of the 100th anniversary of the writer’s first book Fervor de Buenos Aires, a compilation of Borges early poetry books will be presented at the 47th Buenos Aires International Book Fair, which will run from April 20 to May 10.

— with information from Télam


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