Sturm, Twang and the Imaginary Wild West in Europe
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
New Edition of Karl May & Co. Magazine
Karl May Festival, Radebeul, May 2008. Photo (c) R. E. Gruber
The latest edition of the Karl May & Co. magazine arrived today. The magazine, which comes out four times a year, is a beautifully produced compendium of everything related to the world of Karl May, the German author who died in 1912 and created the most enduring of Europe's Wild West heroes -- the Apache chief Winnetou and his "blood brother", "Old Shatterhand," a young German immigrant/adventurer. Each issue is full of articles on all aspects of May's life, work and legacy -- the festivals that take place each year, the movies, the distinctive sound tracks, the actors, the landscapes, the cartoons and other spin-offs, the scholarly works....
Much has been written, in print and on line, about Karl May and his key role in helping shape the imaginary wild west among millions of Europeans over more than a century.
I have posted a number of entries and photographs related to May, his work and his legacy on this blog -- search in the labels, or click HERE to see the list. (You may view some of my published articles by clicking here or here or here.)
Karl May & Co. is celebrating 25 years of publication with a festival weekend next May; gala dinner, VIP guests, the works. Its editors are lively young people, and I enjoy spending time with them when we meet at festivals. I was happy to provide photographs for one of this year's issues -- pictures of Gojko Mitic, a legendary, Yugoslav-born actor who played Winnetou in German stage productions after making a career as a Native American in communist-era East German "Indianer" (or "red western") films.
Other Karl May-related anniversaries are also taking place. This year, for example, marks the 80th anniversary of the Karl May Museum, located in May's former home, the "Villa Shatterhand", in Radebeul near Dresden (scene of the annual Karl May Festival). It is also, I learned from the magazine, the 90th anniversary of the publication of the first "Karl May Jahrbuch," or yearbook.
This edition of the magazine provides information on a number of upcoming cultural events relating to the imaginary wild west. These include a big exhibition, "Sitting Bull und Seine Welt," to be held at the Ubersee Museum in Bremen, Germany, Dec. 13- May 3.
Each summer there are at least a dozen open-air Karl May theater festivals around Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic... the new edition of the magazine lists the dates for the 2009 season-- and the online version of the magazine provides links to many of them. Click HERE.
For several years I've been exploring the imaginary wild west in contemporary Europe -- observing and experiencing the many ways that Europeans embrace the mythology of the American Frontier to enhance, imbue or create their own identities. (Or, indeed, just have fun.) On this blog I will post pictures, stories and links relating to this multi-faceted subculture, from European country music to rodeos, theme parks, round-ups and saloons....
I'm an American writer, photographer, and public speaker long based in Europe. I've chronicled Jewish cultural developments and other contemporary European Jewish issues for more than 20 years and currently coordinate the web site www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu. My latest books are "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," published in 2007, and "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," published in 2008.
I also am working on "Sturm, Twang and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe," an exploration of the American West in the European imagination for which I won a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH summer stipend grant. In 2015 I was the Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, SC.