The West German government Thursday paid $1.98 million - the highest price ever for a modern literary treasure - for the handwritten manuscript of Franz Kafka's novel "The Trial."

The amount paid for the manuscript, which came from an unidentified seller, eclipsed the $605,000 paid in New York last year for Kafka's letters to his lover, Felice Bauer.The buyer was a West German antiquarian bookseller, Heribert Tenschert, who said he was contacted by West German government authorities to buy the manuscript for the Marbach Literary Institute near Stuttgart.

"It was really surprising, the price," he said. "I would have bought it for myself"

The bidding lasted only one minute, starting at $720,000 and rising in $90,000 increments against one other unidentified bidder.