May’s position on colonialism
But what about Karl May’s world view? The writer, who lived from 1842 to 1912 and traveled to the United States and the East when he was old, is accused of spreading colonial and racial prejudices. “Karl May saw his first successes as a writer after the unification of Germany in 1875, three years after Germany’s defeat of Napoleon III. Hunziker explains. “There was a kind of rushed patriotism. 1888, when Karl May made a name for himself, was the Year of the Three Emperors, which began with the coronation of Wilhelm III. It ended. “. This king became known for his” speech of the Huns “. He sent German troops to China in the following order: “You must be as angry as the Huns, so that it would never again occur to you to look at a German with something.”
After this speech, May’s novel “Und Peace on Earth!” was published. , which made him an enemy of the state at the time and temporarily damaged his reputation. “This means that Karl May has a fondness for Greater Germany and he preaches it too. But he distances himself from colonialism and the use of force or war. He belonged to the group of pacifists around Bertha von Suttner. As a result, there are hardly any colonial prejudices in Karl May’s work, “The head of the KMF Foundation is convinced.
What about the stereotypes you might perform? Anyone familiar with some of his works, such as the six-volume Levant cycle with “Across the Desert” and “Through Wild Kurdistan”, knows that it is usually clear at first glance who is good and who is evil. “Karl May wrote novels and stories for adults,” Hunziker explains. In his old age, the writer referred to himself as a storyteller (an oriental storyteller for adults). “Fairy tales, as well as stories, have the peculiarity that the characters are stereotypes. This has nothing to do with the author, but with the type of story and character.” Karl May himself takes a stand on the subject of racism in Old Surehand, writing: “First of all, I am a human being, and if someone else is in need and I can help, I don’t ask if their skin is green or blue.”
Not a children’s book author
He can understand critics’ concerns. But they would proceed from a false assumption: “Often, often, Karl May is assumed to have been an adventure writer and author of children’s books. His character is Winnetou.” But Hunziker is one of the few who has clearly distanced himself from Winnetou.” In my opinion, Winnetou stories are the weakest thing Karl May wrote. As mentioned earlier, he was never written for children. Even ‘Der Schatz im Silbersee,’ which was published in 1894 as a tale of youth and is one of May’s most famous works, is a tale of youth, i.e. 15+, says Hunziker – ‘and for that minimal age, it is too cruel.’ If Karl May is viewed with a “childish spirit”, as adventure and action, and the reader also believes that the fictional world being portrayed is a real one, one would not realize that the action is taking place in front of a theater.
What would the optimal solution in this discussion look like to Hunzker? He doesn’t have to think twice. In 2017, KMF magazine titled ‘Women in Karl May’s Travel Stories’ addressed the criticism that Karl May does not contain any women. In it, it demonstrated that this was by no means the case, just as it explained why today’s criticism is untrue. Also.” Back then, as now, the solution was very simple for him: “Just read what Karl May wrote. Because without peace, reconciliation and equality, there would be no Karl May travel stories.” The Swiss Circle of Friends Karl May has about 20 members from Basel, Zurich, Switzerland and the Lörrach region. The association regularly organizes lectures and events. More information is also available on the Internet: www.karlmayfreundeskreis.ch.