Three months after the death of writer María Kodama, a court in Argentina has declared five of her relatives to be her universal heirs, with the relatives thus inheriting the rights to the legacy of Argentina’s most famous author, Jorge Luis Borges.
Two nephews and three nieces of Kodama, who oversaw her husband’s catalogue until her death but did not leave a will, were put in charge of her estate on Tuesday by a court in Buenos Aires, family lawyer Fernando Soto confirmed to news agencies.
They will serve as the legal representatives of Jorge Luis Borges' work until 2056, when the copyright on the late author’s work expires.
Soto shared the court ruling with the AFP news agency, which resolves: "Declared, according to the law, that due to the death of María Kodama, she will be succeeded in her character of universal heir by her nephews and nieces Mariana del Socorro, Martín, Matías, María Victoria and María Belén.” The children are the offspring of Jorge Kodama (the writer's brother) and María Luisa Massini.
“They have been the only persons presented in the proceedings invoking their inheritance rights,” it added.
Without this ruling the Borges inheritance – consisting of real-estate property, furniture, his library and manuscripts, decorations, medals, among other assets, would have passed to the state.
"They inherit all of Borges' work and all of his cultural heritage, physical, objects and intellectual property, absolutely everything," said Soto.
In an interview, María Victoria – a lawyer who represented herself and her four siblings in the case – vowed to “continue on the same path” that their aunt had taken.
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 and one of the most skilled in the Spanish language. 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.
Kodama, an author, translator and literature professor, was a collaborator and companion of Borges. She became his universal heir in 1979 and was the Argentine's constant companion during the last decades of his life. They married two months before his death in Switzerland.
Kodama died on March 26 in Buenos Aires at the age of 86, without leaving a will. It was widely reported that she had left behind plans outlining the next steps for Borges’ legacy, but none were identified.
In her last few months, ill with cancer, she had lived alone in a hotel in Buenos Aires. Reporting in the aftermath of her death, citing friends, said she had been estranged from her brother Jorge and her family for decades.
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).
Following the death of Argentina’s greatest writer, Kodama had taken on the administration of one the most important literary estates in the Spanish language. She was hands on, often negotiating 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 from Borges includes the house serving as its headquarters, in the Recoleta neighbourhood, as well as flats in Buenos Aires, Paris and Geneva.
It is not known exactly what is included in the writer's archive, which has not been catalogued by any international institution.