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Karl-May-Forum • View topic - Article about Karl May in New York Times

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 Post subject: Article about Karl May in New York Times
PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2007 3:48 pm 
... a little abstract, surreal perhaps ... a contemporary American view of the 'Karl May Scene' in Germany ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/12/arts/ ... =permalink


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2007 9:42 am 
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Thank you for that link, Marlies! :D I receive only the Sunday edition of the New York Times, so knew nothing of this article.

The article itself seems to represent the typical American view of the Indianer “phenomenon” in Germany, with Karl May being an important part of the story. The description of May is typically shallow, and even crude. The fact that May spent some time in prison as a very young man has nothing to do with the quality of his work, and the use of the term “con-man” :cry: discredits May’s intellectual integrity, whether or not this was intended. At least May’s pacifist stance was mentioned. Note that the writer does not mention ever reading one of May’s stories—it is clear that he did not. It is impossible to comment usefully on a writer and his work without having read any of the latter, though in this case it might be excused by the fact that the article is not really on the topic of May.

It is interesting that Americans are so bemused at the Indianer clubs in Germany, considering that role-playing and “re-enactment” activities are so popular here in the U.S. Here is but one (popular and growing) example (with branches in Germany, by the way):



While for many “cowboy shooting” participants, the activity is merely a sport, for others, the values involved reach into every-day life, as in the case of the Indianer clubs. There is nothing funny about any of this. Increased richness of life and thought is a good thing! 8)


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2007 1:16 pm 
Hi Philip

snip>>>and the use of the term “con-man” discredits May’s intellectual integrity<<<snap

It is, or better 'may appear' that this is, so. 500 years earlier, women with red hair were still burned alive as witches - that was 'legal' and the term 'witch' was given to that red-haired woman with the full support of the law. In the mid-1800 the impact of traumatic experiences upon a person's mental health was still largely unknown, and terms like Disociative Identity Disorder were not known. In his era (or better the 1870s), Karl May was 'correctly' termed a 'criminal' by the definition of the law. His crimes, today, are regarded as mere 'pranks' and if those same 'crimes' (cries for help) would be committed by someone today, they would perhaps be worth a mention in a curiosity column of a local rag (if that), but not worth any court's time; instead the person would receive couselling and/or psychological or psychiatric help.

So in this particular case where the author terms Karl May a 'con-man' it would not discredit May's intellectual integrigy, but the one of the person who wrote the article, for not researching the subject thorroughly enough (in this singular point), because 'today' researchers of historical figures are better able to identify circumstances of the subjects' vitae and from a more informed standpoint.

In my view, this article lacks balance.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 10:05 am 
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I saw a reply from Bill, but before I could respond, it somehow vanished into the aether........

........but I can respond to your message! You are quite right that, in truth, it is the author of the article who was discredited by it. (In fact, work that has intellectual or artistic merit can not be discredited, since it stands on its own quality—such work can only be slandered. The same is true of Karl May himself: his work stands as an incorruptible proof of his intellectual and artistic integrity, and of his moral integrity, as well.) But in the eyes of the average reader of the article, who knows little or nothing of Karl May and his work, the slanderous words have the effect of (falsely) discrediting his integrity. Damage has been done. Readers of the article who remember it, and later encounter the possibility of reading a Karl May book or seeing a film, may well be put off.

Americans tend to believe in rehabilitation. Many well-known people have spent time in prison and yet recovered their reputations. But since Karl May passed away almost a century ago, he can do nothing to counter the record of the infelicities of his youth. Only his work can do that, and for this to happen, the works must be read. Thus, a great many well-educated readers of the New York Times now have a false idea of Karl May, and may even think less of Germans for making a “con-man and ex-convict” the most popular author in their country. The article failed to convey what Karl May and Winnetou actually stand for, despite a vague mention of pacifism.

It is true that standards of criminality have varied over time. They have varied amongst different places, too. Some of May’s “crimes” were common in America, in his era. His past would have had very little impact upon his career had he lived in America, which at that time was a place of much greater Liberty than Germany, and a place where people often re-invented themselves. He would likely have had few legal problems, and might not have been put in prison at all. Yes, to-day, May would likely be referred to psychological counselling, which is at best of questionable merit (in my opinion, I hasten to add). I am glad that May was able to work out his life and character on his own, without outside “assistance” that might prevented or compromised his ultimate—and glorious—personal re-invention, which resulted in so much beautiful art.


Last edited by Philip Colston on Thu Sep 20, 2007 11:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 1:38 pm 
Hi Phil

snip>>>Thus, a great many well-educated readers of the New York Times now have a false idea of Karl May, and may even think less of Germans for making a “con-man and ex-convict” the most popular author in their country.<<<snap

Is a reader of the NYT really so easily 'dumbed-down'? A well-educated reader ought to be able to put two and two together ... the nothing-more than anecdotal-value of May's pranks happened over 100 years ago and the NYT reader ought to be able to 'deduce in the reverse', meaning, if May is really so successful to date, then he 'did make good' and the success of his books ought to tell the 'well-educated' reader that the 'con-man' image was of a rather artificially exagerated nature.
If not, such a NYT reader won't understand most of the content of that rag anyway and might rely upon the pictures only for entertainment.

I'm told that it is a documented and statistical fact that most people have to be 'informed' seven times of something before it 'sinks in' (advertising and marketing data). I wouldn't make too much of it. It wasn't front page news I imagine.

Maybe someone like Kevin Costner should be invited to read one of the new translations - with the view to a new epic film with a difference - he might be able to re-educate the American public ... just an idea! :wink:


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 4:34 pm 
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Hello there – (1) The New York Times [New York Sunny 54º F on Sept. 17] is a respectable East Coast paper, far from being “that rag” – in Australian term something akin to” The Australian” or Melbourne’s “The Age.” However the majorities of its readers consist of the “socially aware” New Yorkers who accept what is in this paper to form their opinion as far as a report from far away Germany and never heard of writer called Karl May is concerned. Correct me please Philip if I am mistaken.
(2) Most of the “well educated readers” of the NY Times know nothing at all about “May’s pranks” and can not form any opinion apart from what the reporter puts forward in his article.
(3) There lays the damage done to the memory of Karl May and his literary bequest as far as the US is concerned. The negative perception of the “German Tradition” on Karl May – about which I elaborated elsewhere – is being imported to the English speaking world. The consequence is that a reader will ask “why should I read what has been written by a [as Philip wrote] “con-man and ex-convict””?
(4) I have put forward a medical opinion about Karl May’s state of mind during the years 1862-1874, which brought a wide positive response from amongst medical experts. Karl May’s behavior did not consist during those years of “nothing-more than anecdotal-value of May's pranks” but was an expression of a serious condition accepted nowadays as a reaction to stress - absolving any such individual of criminal responsibility. This is a serious matter and should be taken into consideration by any person writing about Karl May.
(5) Having this in mind I sent an e-mail to the Editor of the NY Times -: “Hello Michael Kimmelman (Re.: Your article on 9/12 - "In Germany, Wild for Winnetou") - there is more on Karl May in the US ….. [Etc. etc.]” – May I suggest others do the same expressing their views?


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:05 am 
Hello to the round

snip>>>respectable East Coast paper<<<snap - my question: why DOES a respectable East Coast paper permitt the publishing of such an uninformed (or perhaps UNINFORMING!) article - if it is aimed at the 'accepting socially aware'?
:wink:

snip>>>accept what is in this paper<<<snap - what else written in the newspapers should we accept as true? How 'socially aware' are those who read 'any' paper really?
:wink:

Most read it to catch up on 'gossip' or 'sensations' and a 'con-man' tricking Germany into accepting him as one of the most successful fiction writer of all times sells more copies than, 'poor old May'.
:wink:

As I only had the online version of the article I can't, of course, judge how many semi-clad, or 'power-dressed' females lined that particular page.
:wink: :wink:

Newspaper USED TO BE once upon a time (in the dim dark past) a fairly reliable channel of information for, and voice of, the people; 'cash for comment' is the order of the day in the 21st century.
:wink:

The circus continues - perhaps one should look at this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses

Of course, and as I always state, this is my personal opinion and far be it from me to dissuade anyone from believing anything that's printed in any newspaper, respectable or not.

:wink:


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 5:54 am 
snip>May I suggest others do the same expressing their views<snap

Indeed! I have made a couple of points to Mr. Kimmelman.

For those who wish to do so: it is easy - simply click on the link to the newspaper article and then click on the name in blue 'Michael Kimmelman' and follow the prompts.
:wink:


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:48 am 
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Hello, Marlies,

High intelligence is rare. No amount of education can increase intelligence. Thus, most well-educated people are not particularly intelligent. I mentioned that the readers of the NYT tended to be well-educated, because such people are far more likely than average to read books. The majority of Americans do not read books at all, let alone classical literature by a German author little known in the U.S. Perhaps the harm done by the NYT article was small. But it was a harm. Most readers do not have the time, knowledge, or inclination—never mind the intelligence—to dissect and analyse articles they read in the period of a few moments.

Regardless of my opinion of the article, I was very interested to see any mention of Karl May or Winnetou in current American media, and am most thankful to you for discovering it!

(The following paragraph is directed to Bill, too): While newspapers were a little more objective earlier in the 20th century, sensationalism has always been a part of this media form, and it affects most articles, if only in subtle ways. (And it is possible that the article in question was more a result of intellectual laziness or inadequate available time than a deliberate attempt to sensationalise the topic; in addition, many people to-day do not take their work seriously, and put in as little effort as possible.) The New York Times had quite a good reputation in the past, especially in comparison to other newspapers of New York City. The quality is still rather good, given the general degradation of writing and reporting. But the NYT has a well-deserved reputation as a very liberal “rag”, politically. Most of the editors and writers are essentially socialists. This extreme liberalism is obvious in the bona fide opinion articles, but it also infiltrates many of the articles that are ostensibly objective. I read the NYT while always taking into consideration the irrational and immoral political views it represents. I hasten to add that I am neither liberal nor conservative. I stand for Liberty and rational morality, which both left and right oppose.

(Back to Marlies): It is interesting that you should mention Kevin Costner! There are rumours in at least two German Karl May forums that Mr Costner has expressed some interest in making a Winnetou film. His last Western, which he also directed (“Open Range”), was excellent, and his film “Dances with Wolves” shows that he would likely be receptive to the Karl May sensibility. In principle, he could portray Old Shatterhand, despite being a little old for the part. As pointed out in the forums, it would be difficult for fans of the 1960s films to see any-one other than Pierre Brice as Winnetou, or Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand. Winnetou, in particular, needs a special actor who can express his majestic nobility. Mr Brice is amazing in this regard: even in still photographs, he glows with the spirit of Winnetou. Gojko Mitic is the only other actor I can think of who has demonstrated a similar ability to express “Karl-May-nobility”, though in his own distinct style. It is very important that the actors portraying Winnetou and Shatterhand have a good rapport, to convey the extraordinarily close bond between the two characters. Mr Costner, or any current American film-maker, would likely wish to cast an actual Indian actor as Winnetou, but it is far more important that the actor be able to portray Winnetou properly, than that he be a Native American. I can not think of any Indian actors working to-day who would be suitable for the part of Winnetou. It takes more than acting ability and the right appearance: it requires a special kind of personality.

I hope I have not come across on this forum as considering Karl May as a charity case, as in “poor old May”. His work will stand forever as proof that he was a great author. His reputation needs no help. But misinformation propagates like wild-fire in this technological age, and it is sad to consider that such false data might cost May some potential readers.

Bill,

Yes, Karl May’s disorder (in his youth; I do not consider his later personification of Old Shatterhand/Kara Ben Nemsi as a disorder) was quite serious. But his so-called “criminal actions” due to the disorder were not serious. As I mentioned above, had Karl May lived in America at that time, he might not have gone to prison at all.

I have purchased a copy of your book, and it is waiting in my reading stack. I have seen “Grey Owl”, starring Pierce Brosnan, and found it a beautiful film that has remarkable parallels to Karl May. I think that all forum readers would benefit from seeing this film, especially if they find May’s later difficulties hard to understand.

By the way, has any-one sent Mr Kimmelman a link to this discussion?


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:08 pm 
have now! :-)

Philip - could you send me the link to the two forums, please (or post them here): snip>>>There are rumours in at least two German Karl May forums that Mr Costner has expressed some interest in making a Winnetou film.<<<snap

It doesn't necessarily have to be a 'Winnetou' film - a film ABOUT the fantasy-full life of Karl May ought to be much more apt in this age of 'guy-on-wrong-side-of-life-makes-good-and-becomes-a-success'.

I have racked my brain (just for fun - a little bit of trivia between my husband and I - and in between translating and proof reading the various volumes) as to who could play either Winnetou and/or Shatterhand, and really, it would have to be two completely unknown actors.
:wink:


Last edited by Marlies on Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:52 pm 
Perhaps this response I just received via phone this moment, ought to give an indication how 'new' readers of May are reacting (and could potentially react in other 'new' countries - such as USA) to his stories:

I gave a friend a birthday present of Old Surehand Quest II - that particular girl friend knows nothing about May, she is as fair dinkum Australian as they come, with a country and western music penchant, and an interest in horse racing as her husband trains race horses.

This is her response to reading a completely unknown author:

"Just a 90 second call to let you know that I've started reading 'your' book, I'm only 20 pages into it but ... its 'bleep' fantastic mate, can't put it down!"

If 'new' readers almost 100 years after his death still react in this manner, I don't think Mr Kimmelman's article has much impact.


:wink:


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:12 pm 
...and another response just received: this time from Mr Kimmelman:

quote:
Thank you for your strongly worded email. I have read and very much enjoyed May's books and the "misinformation" you speak of is the substance of the exhibition I wrote about at the Deutsches Historisches museum as well as of the permanent exhibition at Karl May's villa, as you know. I suggest you take issue with the curators of the show. Please let me know the response.
MK
unquote

strongly worded ... hm, yes ... and I've contacted Dr. Johannes Zeilinger, the curator of the Deutsches Historisches Museum and asked him the following question:

quote:
Ist der 'con-man' die 'Hauptsubstanz' einer Karl May Ausstellung (in diesem Falle?) das heisst: ist die Ausstellung zum Zweck da den Besuchern darzustellen dass Karl May ein 'con-man' (Schwindler) war? Wenn nicht, warum liest man von Herr Kimmelman dass May ein 'con-man' war und dass das die 'Substanz' der Ausstellung ist?
unquote

translation: 'Is the 'con-man' the main substance of a Karl May exhibition (in this case?) meaning: is it the purpose of the exhibition to demonstrate to the visitors that Karl May was a 'con-man'? If not why does one read from Mr Kimmelman that May was a 'con-man' and that this is the 'substance' of the exhibition?'

I have also added to Dr Zeilinger that it is confusing for a New York Times reader because it seems to them that the exhibition is honouring a criminal.

Since a court of law in his lifetime decreed that May was not a 'con-man', methinks that THAT should also be made public in the same 'rag'.
:!:


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 7:55 am 
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Marlies,

I am sure that you are familiar with the two forums to which I referred:

(1) Karl May & Co. (are you not a subscriber to the actual publication?)

Their web-site:



Their film forum:



The pertinent discussions, if I recall correctly, are:

Warum Keine Neuen Winnetou Filme? (Why No New Winnetou Films?)

DVD-Box: Mein Freund Winnetou (DVD Box Set: My Friend Winnetou)

(2) The Karl-May-Treff, devoted to the open-air plays, particularly at Bad Segeberg. Site owner Mike Dietrich directed the new fan-film “Winnetou und das Geheimnis der Geisterschlucht”, and portrayed Winnetou as well.

The web-site:



Since the site is in a frame format, I can not link directly to the forum. The discussions that mention Kevin Costner are in the section “Die Filme”.

I think that the pertinent discussion is:

Neues Filmprojekt “Im Schatten des Schut” (New Film Project “In the Shadow of the Schut”)

I have seen references to the Costner/Winnetou connexion on German film forums, but do not recall enough specifics to provide a link.

A biographical film about Karl May was in fact made in 1974:



It appears to be available on VHS tape, in the museum section of this very web-site (Karl-May-Stiftung), but as part of a set, and at an extraordinary price (€199!)—and those in the U.S. or Canada would have to have the video converted from PAL to NTSC, or purchase a costly multi-standard VCR.

I certainly would welcome a film about Karl May, but only if done with the utmost respect for, and knowledge of, its subject. Alas, as far as English-speaking countries are concerned, the market for a biographical film about a 19th century German author is limited mostly to the “art film” community. I think it would be easier to make and distribute a Winnetou film, which, after all, would be a Western. Western films are making a slight resurgence currently. And the top television awards in the U.S.—the Emmy Awards—were announced a few days ago, with the result that the best mini-series was “Broken Trail”, its star, Robert Duvall, was best leading actor in a mini-series or movie, and the best made-for-television movie was “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. A re-make of “3:10 to Yuma” is in cinemas right now, and a film about Jesse James, starring Brad Pitt, will open soon. If Westerns continue to regain popularity, a new Hollywood Winnetou film may become a possibility. On the other hand, I should rather see no new Winnetou films, than see a poor one! It is hard to imagine Hollywood doing justice to Karl May, though Kevin Costner just might be able to do something interesting, working independently.

It is very interesting to consider alternative actors for famous roles. In some cases, we know “what might have been”, for example:

--if Cary Grant had not turned down the role of James Bond in “Doctor No”.

--if Steve McQueen had not turned down the role of The Sundance Kid, in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”.

--if Alan Ladd had not turned down the role of Jett Rink in “Giant” (the director, the great George Stevens, always regretted having to cast James Dean in that role).

--if Alan Ladd had won the part of Lawrence of Arabia, that he dearly sought.

--if Lex Barker had won the role of General Tanz in “Night of the Generals”.

And there is the “thank goodness”:

--that Montgomery Clift was unavailable for the role of Shane in “Shane”.

--that Pierre Brice was selected instead of Christopher Lee for Winnetou.

(I hasten to add that I greatly esteem both Clift and Lee.)

And there is idle speculation, such as:

What if Humphrey Bogart and Frederic March had played against type and switched roles in “The Desperate Hours”? Here, I think a great film would have been even more interesting.

What if Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea had played closer to type, and not switched roles in “Ride the High Country”? Here, I think that Scott and McCrea made the right decision (which they made independently!).

And a very interesting exercise is wondering who could play Winnetou and Old Shatterhand to-day. You may think me crazy, but I think that Pierre Brice could still portray Winnetou. He is in excellent condition and looks decades younger than his chronological age. Gojko Mitic is ten years younger and seems as fit as ever (and that is fit indeed!), and could also portray Winnetou, as he did for fifteen years at Bad Segeberg.

Your translation of “Old Surehand: Quest II” is a delight! :D Because I have been extraordinarily busy lately, with little free time available, and because I like to savour Karl May, I am still reading this wonderful adventure. 8)

I am glad to hear that your friend is enjoying the book so much, especially since she knew nothing about Karl May. But every Karl May fan had to discover him, as I did through the 1960s films. I am very hopeful that your translations, as well as some others currently available, will win new English-speaking Karl May fans.

I will be interested to hear what Dr Zeilinger has to say about that exhibition.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 8:27 am 
Hello Philip

No, I have no paid affiliation or membership with any club anywhere. The only forum my time allows me to frequent (aside from this one) is the German 'sister' forum also hosted by the Stiftung.

---

Dr. Zeilinger is away, however media liaison Mr Trabold (of the museum) has replied to my above question [translated] that: ... It would be a misunderstanding if the impression that the exhibition portrays May only in that position [as a ‘con-man’] would arise, such as you have found in Kimmelman’s article.

Yet Mr. Kimmelman stated that: ... the "misinformation" [portraying May as a 'con-man'] you speak of is the substance of the exhibition I wrote about at the Deutsches Historisches museum...

... a case of misunderstood misinformation? How many other NYT readers have been understandably misinformed thus?

As I said earlier ... the circus surrounding May continues ... :?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 8:45 am 
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I am sorry, Marlies: for some reason I had the impression that you subscribed to the magazine (not that this would be a bad thing, nor would it in any way compromise your integrity). As I gradually learn more and more German, I will likely subscribe to the magazines associated with those two forums. As it is, I have read some parts of Pierre Brice’s autobiography, “Winnetou und Ich”, and found it very interesting. (He wrote the book in his native French, which I read rather well, but alas there is no French edition of the book[!], since he is not as big a star in France as in Germany :shock: .)

The reply you received from Mr Kimmelman was not very useful, though I suppose its tone and content were to be expected. Most people do not take kindly to being challenged about their work. :(


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