Throughout history, literary authors have made enormous contributions to the formation of worldviews, social trends, political decisions, and sometimes even hastened the course of war and peace. Moreover, literature reflects the development of peoples and cultures. Its various branches underlie almost every modern civilization, and its products are given expression in other areas of culture and leisure such as film, theater, opera and television.
In their work, authors provide readers with a meaningful experience and rich world of content, enabling an escape into a different reality, while broadening knowledge, imagination, language and emotions as well as providing inspiration, hope and new avenues of thought. The Czech-Jewish writer Franz Kafka, one of the greatest authors of the 20th century and parts of whose personal archive are preserved in the National Library, believed that the experience of reading a book should stir the reader. In one of his letters he wrote, “A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.”
Hebrew literature holds an essential role in the national-cultural identity of the Jewish people. A wave of "New Hebrew Literature" emerged in Europe against the background of the Enlightenment in the 18th and 19th centuries, and developed simultaneously with Zionist thought and the revival of the Hebrew language. Centers of Hebrew literature rose to prominence at different times in different places, especially in Germany, Galicia and Russia, and from the end of the 19th century in the United States. Naturally, Hebrew writers were influenced by world and local literature, and especially by German, Russian, and American writers. In the Land of Israel, Hebrew literature developed mainly from the beginning of the 20th century.
The National Library preserves millions of books written in Hebrew and other languages, in Israel and around the world. In addition, the Library is provided with copies of every book published in Israel by law, thus creating the most comprehensive collection of works by Israeli authors in the world.
The Library also houses the personal archives of many authors, some of whom deposited their archives during their lifetimes, updating them regularly afterwards. The archives contain drafts, manuscripts, assorted documents, correspondence, personal journals, press clippings and various sources of inspiration. Among the authors whose archives are preserved in the Library are S.Y. Agnon, Stefan Zweig, A.B. Yehoshua, Amalia Kahana-Carmon, David Grossman, Haim Be’er, Meir Shalev, Dvora Omer and Tamar Bornstein-Lazar. In addition, the collaboration between the Library and the Gnazim Archive of the Hebrew Writers Association in Israel makes it possible to digitally browse through some 800 additional archival collections.