“Don’t always hit the spot” – The Neue Südtiroler Tageszeitung

The withdrawal of children’s books in Winneto is controversial. What historian Martha Stoker says about the debates around the new edition of Karl May’s classic.

Daily: Ms. Stoker, Ravensburger Verlag pulled several Winnetou headlines after allegations of racism. This causes discussions. Was it right to withdraw children’s books or was this decision premature?

Martha Stoker: It has now become relatively unexpected, causing an internet storm. Of course you could say it’s a burlesque romance, but that’s a lot these days. On the other hand, we have brutal realities to contend with and sometimes I feel like there are escape moves into a romantic world. And you can’t blame the people who sometimes embark on this journey because in many cases the reality is not easy. Even if the influences on us are not felt very much in relation to other facts, this situation makes you feel insecure and anxious – which is why you want to escape into things almost like a fairy tale.

I have not read the critical children’s book, but on the one hand, I can understand the publisher, who withdraws in order not to expose himself to a crazy storm of nonsense – but in fact, this is also the case if you make such cases the norm, then you give to the community, which organizes itself well on social media, not only in this case, but possibly many others as well. That’s why it will be important to know where the criticism comes from. I think you have to be careful here not to get stuck right away.

Like many others, she grew up reading Karl May’s books on Winnetou…

Yes, of course.

Are Karl May’s books out of date?

But the question then – if you talk about contemporary – what literature should you ban? Then we go in the direction of explaining what was right or wrong in the past and work on a worst-case watchlist. This is something we need to think about carefully. We cry out for all the freedoms in the world that we should have and the personal responsibility we want to exercise. Winnetou’s books opened me up to imaginary worlds and conjured beautiful landscapes in my head. I may not read this book today, but at the time it was like discovering the world to me, because you didn’t have as many options as you do today.

Why don’t you read Winnetou’s books anymore?

Because I’ve already read it and I don’t need to re-read a book that has a certain meaning to me at a certain time. With this selection of books, there is no need to repeat anything. Today, too, may seem outdated – but I can’t say because I haven’t had the book in my hands lately.

Critics of this retreat and fans of Karl May repeatedly assert that these are fairy tales …

In that sense, I meant earlier that these are fictional and fictional descriptions – and you know that too. But I don’t think it’s right to draw white actors for a movie these days.

There has been an intense debate about cultural appropriation for years. Is this debate important or are different positions exaggerating it?

The question should be what is the end result of this whole story. I always think discussion is good, but should the end result be that we immediately succumb to every storm that develops on a topic – justified or not? Or does the discussion lead us to think differently about certain things and perhaps also approach certain topics with greater caution?

On the other hand, there is also the question of what social media does, or whether it leads to a change of terminology. Part of everyone’s sense of responsibility is to look at things and then weigh what you think about them. I am convinced that it is important to discuss such topics, but you also have to look at the source of the criticism and acknowledge that people often yearn for illusion and imagination – and this is also part of freedom.

Interview: Lisa Lange

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