Winnetou Redux, German SF and Two Audio Links

My post about the passing of Pierre Brice, the actor best known for portraying the noble Apache chief Winnetou in the Karl May adaptations of the 1960s, attracted some unexpected attention, because it led to me being interviewed by Carol Off on the program As It Happens by CBC Radio today. You can listen to the interview here.

As for how that interview came about, I was just sitting down to watch the evening news, when I was handed the telephone with the words “Someone speaking English.”

Now English language phonecalls in this house are usually for me and even when they’re not, I’m usually the one who ends up answering them. Most of those English language calls are work-related, but since I wasn’t expecting anything along those lines, I was naturally a bit curious.

So I answered the phone and found myself talking to a very nice lady who works as a producer for CBC Radio in Toronto. Turned out that they wanted to do a piece about the late Pierre Brice and my blogpost was one of the very few English language articles about him. So she asked me a few questions, I tried to explain why Pierre Brice and Winnetou were so important for many Germans and then she asked if she could call me back for the interview with Carol Off.

They called me back an hour later, we did the interview and this is how I ended up getting interviewed on Canadian radio, which impressed my parents mightily. when I told them.

If you’re not all audioed out yet, I’d also like to point you to this recent episode of the Skiffy and Fanty Show podcast about German science fiction. I wasn’t interviewed for this one, since it’s a recording of a panel about German SF at Loncon, the 2014 WorldCon. But I did help out the Skiffy and Fanty team by decyphering the German names and tracking down the relevant links, for which they kindly thanked me in the subsequent episode dedicated to Mad Max: Fury Road.

This entry was posted in Books, Film, Links and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Winnetou Redux, German SF and Two Audio Links

  1. Cool! I posted your Winnetou thoughts yesterday on one of the bigger social media channels I manage ( for just that reason. A nice comprehensive look at the subject and one of the few in English.

  2. Karl May, and hence Winnetou, were rather popular in Flanders as well, mostly thanks to a translation of 25 of the best known works, both the ones involving Winnetou and the ones about Kara ben Nemsi. The movies were less successful, but nevertheless they were shown often on TV.

    While traveling through Germany and Austria I made my parent buy me the non translated ones. I remember a story arc about the Napoleonic wars, in which the French were horribly bad and Germany fought for its freedom.
    What little German I have, I learned mostly from reading May.

    It was nice hearing you for a change, instead of reading you, which is also nice, I hasten to add. 🙂 ).

    • Cora says:

      Glad you enjoyed the interview.

      Interesting to hear that Karl May’s, that is Winnetou’s and Kara Ben Nemsi’s popularity extended to Flanders as well. And of course, reading Karl May is also an excellent incitement to learn German, though I suspect it wouldn’t work nearly as well on contemporary teens. But maybe we could catch them with Cornelia Funke.

      BTW, I learned a lot more English from SF novels and superhero comics than from official English classes. Wanting to read and understand this cool book, comic or movie is a great motivator.

      Regarding “Die Liebe des Ulanen”, which is the Napoleonic War novel I think you’re referring to, it came out only 12 years after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71, when anti-French sentiment was pretty strong, which also manifested itself in the literature of the era, sometimes with the Roman Empire standing in for France, as e.g. in Felix Dahn’s Ein Kampf um Rom. Also witness e.g. the Hermannsdenkmal or Arminius monument near Detmold, a statue a 50 meter tall Germanic tribesman (Cherusci chief Arminius who kicked the Romans’ backsides nowhere near Detmold) completed in 1875, which is looking towards and raising his sword towards “evil” France. Of course, poor Hermann or Arminius really has to squint to see France, since a lot of Germany, a bit of the Netherlands and Belgium are in the way.

      Feelings about the Napoleonic Wars also remained strong in Germany throughout the 19th century and in fact we’re still referring to the German parts of the Napoleonic Wars as “Befreiungskriege” or Wars of Liberation, never mind that Napoleon introduced legal reforms that actually benefitted the population. In a neighbouring town there is a monument to a German volunteer regiment from the Napoleonic Wars, which just happened to camp in said town once, with the inscription that their heroism and sacrifice will never be forgotten, which is ironic, because nowadays no one knows who these people were without looking it up. That monument was set up in 1863.

      In short, anti-French sentiment was depressingly common in 19th century Germany and even Karl May couldn’t quite escape it (and besides, “Die Liebe des Ulanen” is a great adventure novel), whereas Native Americans, Turks, Kurds, Arabs, etc… were far enough removed from 19th century German reality to be treated as exciting people to meet.

  3. Laran says:

    Oh yes, I love this Napoleonic era May family saga! You mean “Die Liebe des Ulanen” and most probably bought a volume of the shortened version (an improvement of the original, one has to admit!) by the Karl May Verlag, maybe “Der Weg nach Waterloo” oder “Der Spion von Ortry”.

    In my heart those very early serialized novels by May like “Liebe des Ulanen” occupy their very special place (I am just about to finish a novel-length fan fiction to “Der Habicht”, gender-updated, heh), and I haven’t re-read Winnetou since my youth. But it is somewhat sad that all the old connections of (mostly) German reading experiences shared by so many die out bit by bit. Nowadays, the novels don’t really appeal to the young any more, and I can see why! Maybe not so bad regarding the often problematic contents (e.g. antisemitism), but strange for us who still share this bond by reading. I suppose nowadays we have Harry Potter to unite vast amounts of people via reading.

    • Cora says:

      Well, the Kolportageroman versions of “Die Liebe des Ulanen”, “Das Waldröschen” and others were basically May getting paid by the word or rather chapter, so naturally he dragged them out as far as he could in classic soap opera/telenovela fashion. And yes, I like the serialized Kolportageromane, too.

      And yes, I hear you about shared German reading experiences gradually vanishing, especially since Karl May as well as things like Nesthäkchen, Trotzkopf and Pucki spanned generations. My parents read them and my grandparents as well and at least for May, likely my great-grandparents, too. Though I can understand why today’s teens wouldn’t want to read them, since they are badly dated and often heavily edited to keep them palatable to newer readers. In fact, it’s fascinating how long these stories lasted, passed on from parent to child over generations.

      I really wonder what will take their place. Harry Potter is a possibility and probably Astrid Lindgren, since she is pretty timeless. Among German literature, I would have said Michael Ende not so long ago, but I don’t see a whole lot of teens reading Momo or The Neverending Story or Jim Knopf und Lukas, der Lokomotivführer these days (which is a pity, because they’re wonderful). Maybe the days of the shared literary experience are behind us, though that, too, would be a pity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *