|Karl May Books in English|
|Let Karl May Help Your German|
Karl May is a name known to just about any living adult German. His books have outsold all other German authors, yet he is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. An American expert on Karl May (pron. MY in German), Prof. Alex Kuo of Washington State University, has written: May has been a significant author in shaping the average German youth's view of the American West and the American Indian as well, as part of Germany's long love affair, for good or bad, with the states west of the Mississippi.
In the age of television, movies, computers, and the Web, May's books have less influence than they once did, but much of the German Amerikabild, or image of America, comes from the western stories of Karl May (1842-1912) and the German movies and television programs they have inspired. It is thanks to Karl May that the Germans have always favored the Indians over the cowboys. Long before Dances With Wolves (1990, German title: "Der mit dem Wolf tanzt"), Germans felt more empathy for Karl May's Indian character, Winnetou, than for any paleface.
The biggest German movie in recent years was Der Schuh des Manitu in 2001. So many German moviegoers flocked to see this satiric comedy that the film broke box office records for a German movie. Part of the attraction was how the film satirized the German westerns that most Germans, particularly males, had read as kids. So, it is ironic that this German Louis L'Amour is a mystery to Americans.
Published in 1999, Winnetou is a new English translation of one of May's most popular tales of the American West by David Koblick. It is published by the WSU Press at Washington State University. The Shadow of the Padishah: Through the Desert is Michael Michalak's translation of Karl May's Durch die Wüste, an adventure tale set in the Sahara Desert. Both of these new English translations are very enjoyable reading, and offer people whose German isn't up to reading the originals an opportunity to enter a world of adventure known to most Germans. (Also see our interviews with two translators of Karl Mays books.)
So give these new Karl May translations a try! And read more about the author and his works on the pages that follow.
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