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Karl May in France: a failed reception?

Éric Leroy du Cardonnoy et Corona Schmiele

Karl May died just a hundred years ago in 1912. He was, and still is, one of the most illustrious German writers, the most translated world-wide after Luther’s Bible. His adventure stories, although not primarily written for children and young people, contributed to his fame around the globe. This issue of the review will deal with the possible reasons and explanations for a significant non-reception in France since the nineteenth-century.

Karl May’s name never crossed the Rhine for evident historical reasons such as the Franco-German war of 1870, the European rivalry between the two countries and two World Wars; but there may be other factors to explain this lack of interest in France, like the existence of a French literature for young which fully occupied the market. The French imagination seems also to have been less marked, or in a different way, by the New World than the German one.

The particular issue of the revue Strenae which this collection of articles will be dealing with, explains the importance of these facts: it will be possible to reflect on the differences between the French and German imaginations in a European context, and also to analyze the place and role of the New World for a French audience at the time. The interest for the Orient in some of May’s novels doesn’t seem to correspond to French people’s expectations, or doesn’t convey what the audience really yearns for, or the subject is already dealt with differently by French authors. It will be possible to look at the novels’ translations from the editors’ point of view, their politics in editing, or even from the reader’s requirements.

Cinematographic adaptations and commercial measures taken by the Karl-May Verlag could be another angle. French actor Pierre Brice, who played Winnetou, the most famous character of May’s novels, and contributed to the worldwide diffusion of the author’s name through the media of moving images is the “famous unknown” actor of French cinema, according to Oliver Schwehm: whatever the media, Karl Mays’s name and powerful imagination doesn’t seem to appeal, even now, to a French reading public.

Please send abstracts (250 – 400 words) or any queries to:

The deadline for abstracts is 1st August 2013. Those selected for inclusion will be notified shortly afterward.

The deadline for articles is 31st December 2013.

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