And four years later, the man who would capture the hearts and minds of young and old alike for years to come with his gripping adventure books died in his beloved Saxony in Germany.
A fascinationFor a century or more May enjoyed enormous popularity among the young in Europe, more so in Germany, despite the uncertainty of some literary critics as to what had sparked the author's fascination with America's Wild West back in the late 1880s.
Framing an image
Johannes Zeilinger, the curator of the Karl May exhibition argues that May framed a popular image of North America with Indians "as a dying race, tragically killed off by fate and by the spread of a new empire."
Hans-Ottomeyer, the Museum's director, largely agrees, claiming May taught Germans in the mid-1880s, "America was a wild place of natives and intruders."
Generations of young Germans grew up reading May's books, says Ottomeyer, who was no exception. Today, this was no longer true due to the "presence" of Harry Potter and other new literary heroes -- a fact causing wistfulness among some of the show's visitors.
"You know, it's not surprising that Karl May remains the most read German author of all time," explained Angelika Standke, 37, a Munich sociologist after a visit to the exhibition. "After all, he greatly influenced the imagination of European audiences by capturing not only the beauty of America but also its tougher, pioneering element and spirit."
Playing at cowboys and Indians
Nowadays, there are estimated to be up to 50,000 German adults who spend their free time playing cowboys and Indians. Wild West theme parks are "in" in Europe, with most of them found in Germany. Eldorado, a fake Wild West village, has emerged near Templin, not far from where German Chancellor Angela Merkel grew up.
Besides the American Wild West, May also wrote adventure yarns about the Orient and Africa, at one stage even distributing photos of himself geared up as Kara Ben Nemsi, Old Shatterhand's doppelganger in the Ottoman world.
In postwar communist GDR (East Germany), May's books were frowned upon by the regime, and the author's house in Radebeul was closed to visitors. Then in the mid-1980s, the leadership had a change of heart.
Defa Films were suddenly allowed to be made about Winnetou, and May's house reopened to the public. A museum near Dresden was inaugurated in his name, albeit heavily accented on the suffering of Indians in the "capitalist US."
Copyright DPA with Expatica
29 November 2007
Subject: Germany, cowboys, Indians, native Americans, history, adventure, literature, novels, pop culture, Berlin, exhibitions
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