Karl May

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Karl May (1907) May.gif

Karl Friedrich May (born February 25, 1842 in Ernstthal , † March 30, 1912 in Radebeul ; actually Carl Friedrich May ) was a German writer . Karl May was one of the most prolific writers of adventure novels . He is one of the most widely read writers in the German language and, according to UNESCO, one of the most frequently translated German writers. The worldwide circulation of his works is estimated at 200 million, of which 100 million in Germany.

He was best known for his so-called travel stories, which are mainly set in the Orient , the United States and Mexico in the 19th century. The stories about the Indian Winnetou, summarized in three volumes, are particularly famous . Many of his works have been filmed , adapted for the stage , made into radio plays or implemented as comics.



Karl May's birthplace in Hohenstein-Ernstthal

Karl May came from a poor weaver family . He was the fifth of fourteen children, nine of whom died in their first few months. According to May , he went blind as a toddler and was only cured by Carl Friedrich Haase when he was five years old. This early childhood blindness, for which there is no evidence other than May's own information, was explained by later Karl May research with various causes (including a vitamin A deficiency), but in some cases also questioned.

First known photo of Mays: Editor around 1875

From 1848 to 1856 May attended elementary school in Ernstthal. The ambitious father Heinrich August May wanted to give his only surviving son Karl better opportunities than he had had himself; he forced the boy to copy entire books and drove him to study scientific works himself. May also received special support from the Ernstthal cantor Samuel Friedrich Strauch and received private music and composition lessons. According to his own account, he earned his first money at the age of twelve as a cone boy . The sometimes quite rough conversations between the bowlers were understandable even at the end of the lane thanks to the "bowling thrust" that acted like an ear tube. On this occasion he also met the first returnees from the New World who told him about the United States.


1856 May studied as Proseminarist at teacher training college in Waldenburg . There he was expelled in January 1860 for embezzling six candles. On the path of grace he was able to continue studying at the Plauen teacher training college . After he passed his final exam in September 1861 with a good overall grade , he initially worked briefly as an assistant teacher at the school for the poor in Glauchau and then from the beginning of November 1861 as a teacher at the factory school of the Solbrig and Clauss companies in Altchemnitz . However, his teaching career ended after a few weeks when a roommate complained about "illegal use of other people's belongings" - May had used his reserve pocket watch with permission in class, but took it with him during the Christmas holidays without prior consultation - and led to a six-week prison sentence May was then deleted from the list of candidate teachers as a convicted person.

In the following two years May endeavored to earn his living legally: he gave private lessons in his hometown, composed and declaimed . However, these occupations did not secure his livelihood, so that in 1864 he began various rip-offs. As a result, he was charged with theft, fraud and swindling a warrant searched. He had, among other things on the Leipziger Brühl under a false name a fur coat surreptitiously and this in a pawnshop for ten dollars can be put. He was arrested and sentenced in 1865 to four years in the workhouse , of which he served three and a half years in the Schloss Osterstein workhouse in Zwickau . Due to good leadership, he became a “special writer” for the prison inspector Alexander Krell, to whom he worked for technical articles. For his own planned writing career, he put on a list of over a hundred titles and subjects ( Repertory C. May ), some of which he demonstrably implemented.

After his release, however, all of May's attempts to establish a bourgeois existence failed again, and he resumed the fraud and theft. Often the booty was disproportionate to the effort. After a first arrest in July 1869, he managed to escape during a prisoner transport. In January 1870 he was finally arrested in the Bohemian Niederalgersdorf for vagrancy . At the police station he called himself Albin Wadenbach, claimed he came from the island of Martinique, was the son of a wealthy plantation owner and had lost his identity papers on his trip to Europe. Only after several weeks of identity verification was he recognized as the wanted petty criminal Karl May and transferred to Saxony .

From 1870 to 1874 he was imprisoned in Waldheim prison . For his inner change, which May reports about this time, he blamed the institution catechist Johannes Kochta in particular . A writing activity - as May later claimed - was not possible in Waldheim.


After May was released from prison in 1874, he returned to his parents in Ernstthal and began to write. A short story by May ( Die Rose von Ernstthal ) was published for the first time in 1874 or 1875 . He benefited from the fact that the newspaper landscape in Germany had been in a state of upheaval since the founding of the empire. The industrialization , the growing literacy and the freedom of trade made for numerous start-ups in publishing, particularly in the field of entertainment leaves. According to his own statements, May had already contacted the Dresden publisher Heinrich Gotthold Münchmeyer in the period between his two longer prison sentences . Now he hired him as an editor in his publishing house , where he published, among other things, the magazines The Observer on the Elbe and Schacht und Hütte . This secured May's livelihood for the first time.

He oversaw various entertainment journals and wrote or edited numerous articles with and without naming his name. May resigned in 1876, as attempts were made to bind him to the company permanently by marrying Münchmeyer's sister-in-law, and the publisher had a bad reputation. After another job as an editor at the Dresden publishing house by Bruno Radelli , May became a freelance writer from 1878 and moved to Dresden with his girlfriend Emma Pollmer . However, his publications did not yet generate a steady income; Arrears rent and other debts of May are also documented from this period.

Five years after his release from prison May 1879 in Stollberg was sentenced to three weeks' arrest for alleged presumption of office : A year before his marriage to Emma Pollmer, he wanted to investigate the circumstances of her drunk uncle's death and therefore pretended to be a civil servant. It was only later that it was possible to prove that the conviction had been a false judgment because he had not performed an official act .

In the fifth year, May's first story appeared for Deutscher Hausschatz

In 1879 he received an offer from Deutsches Hausschatz , a Catholic weekly newspaper from Regensburg, to offer his stories there first: In 1880 May began the Orient cycle , which he continued with interruptions until 1888. At the same time, he wrote for other magazines, using various pseudonyms and titles in order to receive multiple awards for his texts . Until his death, over a hundred stories were published in sequels in various magazines, including the German house treasure, which was important for May's career ( F. Pustet, Regensburg ), and the boys' magazine Der Gute Kamerad ( W. Spemann , Stuttgart and Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft ) , in which May's youth stories appeared. In 1882 there was renewed contact with HG Münchmeyer, and May began work on the first of the five big gossip novels for his former employer. The forest rose was reprinted hundreds of thousands of times by 1907. The fact that May only concluded an oral contract with his old friend Münchmeyer later led to ongoing legal disputes.

In October 1888 May moved to Kötzschenbroda , and in 1891 to Oberlößnitz in the Villa Agnes . The decisive breakthrough for May came with contact with Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld , who was looking for a successor to his previous in-house author Curt Abel . The young publisher contacted May 1891 and offered to publish the Hausschatz stories in book form. With the success of the series Carl May's Gesammelte Reiseromane (from 1896 Karl May's Gesammelte Reiseerzählungen from 1892) started May gained financial security and fame for the first time.

However, he soon no longer knew how to differentiate between reality and fiction and got more and more into the " Old Shatterhand legend ". He not only claimed to be Old Shatterhand himself and to have actually experienced the content of the stories, but even had the legendary rifles made by a gunsmith from Kötzschenbroda that can be seen today in the Karl May Museum in Radebeul : first of all, the "Bear Killer" and the “silver box”, later also the “Henrystutzen”. Its publishers and editors supported the legend by including a. Answered letters to the editor accordingly. May's readers, who willingly followed the equation of author and protagonist, subsequently sent countless letters directly to him, most of which he answered personally. Several reader trips and lectures followed. From 1896 he was the general German literature calendar of Joseph Kürschner as a translator from Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Kurdish and various Indian dialects, also quote from the Chinese later. In July 1897, he provided his later opponents with further points of attack by declaring in front of numerous listeners that he mastered 1200 languages ​​and dialects and, as Winnetou's successor, was in command of 35,000 Apaches. May avoided people who could have refuted his claims.

Since around 1875 Karl May had a doctorate without ever having obtained a doctorate or even attended a university . This degree was also included in author directories and, from 1888, even in the Kötzschenbrodaer population register . In 1898 the doctoral degree was suddenly missing in the “address book for Dresden and its suburbs”; May asked for correction and was confronted with the question of proof. He said the University of Rouen had awarded him the degree. In addition, he has at least an equivalent Chinese dignity. Nevertheless, he was forbidden to use the degree. May let go of the address book, but kept the title privately. In autumn 1902 his future wife Klara Plöhn took care of the matter again, and May received an elaborately designed certificate - dated December 9, 1902 - for an honorary doctorate from the German-American University in Chicago for the work Im Reiche des Silber Löwen . On March 14, 1903, May, because he wanted to get married again, applied for the (accelerated) examination and praised the issuing university for attracting “first-rate teachers from Germany”. Just four days later, after an examination, the use of a doctoral degree on the basis of this certificate was rejected because - as May researched himself a little later - the alleged university was just a title mill . That made the title worthless. May still defended his doctorate in 1904 in the open letters to the " Dresdner Anzeiger " , but then gave up leadership.

At the end of the 1890s he went on lecture tours through Germany and Austria, had autograph cards printed and photographs of himself with visitors in disguise. In December 1895, the company moved to the Villa Shatterhand in Alt-Radebeul , which the Ziller brothers had acquired and which today houses the Karl May Museum .


In 1910, the Benedictine priest and literary scholar Ansgar Pöllmann published one of his anti-May articles in the second February issue of the bi-monthly publication for beautiful literature Über den Wassern, entitled A literary thief , in which he identified some of May's (geographical) sources. May took legal action against him and the publisher Expeditus Schmidt .

The information was taken up and May confronted with the accusation of appropriating other people's intellectual property. It was proven to him that his story Die Rache des Ehri , which first appeared in 1878 under the pseudonym Emma Pollmer, the name of his first wife, in the magazine Frohe Stunden , largely coincided with the story Das Mädchen von Eimeo by Friedrich Gerstäcker (1816–1868). 1872) is identical.

On May 9, 1910, Egon Erwin Kisch May spoke directly to the plagiarism allegation with regard to Gerstäcker in an interview and received the answer:

“That refers to the story Ehry , which was published many years ago in a collection of novels by me. It is a story for which an old geography of India, in which it is mentioned, gave me cause. F. Gerstäcker, who has never been to India himself, now seems to have read the same geography and used it in a short story. Hence the agreement. "

In addition, there are numerous other similarities with the work of Gerstäcker, as well as with the works of Gustave Aimard , Gabriel Ferry , Charles Sealsfield and others.

However, Karl May mainly incorporated scientific sources into his work, e.g. B. whole paragraphs from encyclopedias and travelogues. Adoptions from literary works are rare.

Musical activity

May's practical music-making activity was relatively extensive up to Waldheim's imprisonment. As a child he was a Kurrendaner and church soloist , in Ernstthal as a trained teacher, choir director and composer with solo appearances; he was a wind player, organist and arranger in Osterstein and Waldheim. He could play the following instruments: piano , organ , violin , guitar and alto horn . By the time he was fully employed as a writer from 1874, regular practice was definitely over. May played party evenings with Münchmeyer in Blasewitz, he composed the Ernste Klänge and in May 1900 played the organ for the last time in Jerusalem . In the last decade of his life he restricted himself to listening to music.

to travel

Karl May actually traveled to the Orient for the first time in 1899 and 1900. In the first part of the trip he was traveling alone for almost nine months (accompanied only by his servant Sejd Hassan) and reached Sumatra . In December 1899 he met his wife and befriended couple Plöhn. The four of them continued their journey and returned to Radebeul in July 1900. During this year and a half, Karl May kept a travel diary of which only fragments and partial copies have been preserved. May's second wife Klara reported that he had suffered a nervous breakdown twice on the way (“feared that he would have to be taken to an asylum”). The condition is said to have persisted for about a week both times and was - so suspect Hans Wollschläger and Ekkehard Bartsch - to be ascribed to "the breaking of a glaring reality into his [Mays] dream world". May overcame the crises without the help of a doctor.

May with his second wife Klara in 1904

Parallel to his trip to the Orient, violent attacks on May began in the press from 1899, in particular carried out by Hermann Cardauns and Rudolf Lebius . For various reasons, they criticized May's self-advertising and the associated Old Shatterhand legend. At the same time he was charged with religious hypocrisy (he wrote Marian calendar stories as a Protestant ) and immorality, and later with his criminal record. These allegations and various legal proceedings for unauthorized book publications accompanied him until his death.

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1903 at May's request. Emma May, who was friends with HG Münchmeyer's widow Pauline, had, according to Mays, burned documents that Mays could have verbally confirmed with a publishing contract with Münchmeyer, so that this legal dispute could not be resolved in May's favor during his lifetime. In the year of his divorce, on March 30, 1903, May married Klara Plöhn, who was meanwhile widowed.

May tomb with marble relief by Selmar Werner

In 1908 Karl May and his wife went on a six-week voyage to America on board the NDL high-speed steamer “ Kronprinzessin Cecilie ”. They visited Albany , Buffalo and Niagara Falls , among others , and friends in Lawrence . On this trip, too, May was confronted with reality; during his stay in New York City , he did not want to be photographed. This trip served May as inspiration for his book Winnetou IV .

Last years

After his trip to the Orient May began to write more literary. He retrospectively called his previous work a mere “preparation”. Now he began to write complex allegorical texts. He was convinced that the “questions of humanity” (who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?) Have to be discussed or even solved. He consciously turned to pacifism and dedicated himself to the endeavor to move people from “evil” to “good” “To raise several books.

The artist friendship with Sascha Schneider led to new symbolist cover images for the Fehsenfeld edition.

May received jubilant recognition (after boycott threats in the run-up to the event) on March 22, 1912, when he gave the pacifist lecture Up into the realm of noble people in Vienna at the invitation of the Academic Association for Literature and Music . It also came to the meeting with the fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bertha von Suttner , after May's death on 5 April at the time the obituary few words about Karl May published.

Karl May died on March 30, 1912, just a week after his speech in Vienna. According to the funeral register, the cause of death was "Heart paralysis, acute bronchitis, asthma". Recent skeletal studies suggest chronic lead poisoning; previously an (undetected) lung cancer was not excluded. May was buried in the so-called May grave at the Radebeul-Ost cemetery.

Artistic creation

Karl May was one of the most successful trivial literature authors of the 19th century in Germany , especially with his colportage novels. His adventure novels and youth stories have been translated into more than 33 languages ​​and have a total circulation of over 200 million. They depict journeys to exotic locations such as the Wild West and the Near East . In doing so, he turns from a Christian point of view to the fate of the oppressed peoples.

Karl May as Old Shatterhand, 1896

A development of his narrator character can be ascertained in the texts: from the nameless self, who is only a spectator and reporter ( Der Gitano , 1875), to an increase in heroic abilities, to the fully developed first-person narrator heroes Old Shatterhand and Kara Ben Nemsi . Some of his storytelling heroes have no war names and are only called "Charley" by friends and companions (English mother tongue). After equipment and skills (e.g. the hunt) had long since become the same for all first-person narrator heroes, May went over to Satan and Iscariot (magazine version 1893-1896), the first-person narrators in the Wild West, in the front Orient and in Germany with the (war) names used in these regions. So he identified the three characters Old Shatterhand, Kara Ben Nemsi and Charley with a certain Dr. Karl May in Dresden.

From here it was only a small step to the development of the so-called Old Shatterhand legend (see above under writing ). Seldom has an author attempted more explicitly to blur the line between the first-person narrator and the real author's self postulated by literary theory. Karl May was accused in this context of imposture and pseudology (compulsive lying). In this context, the biographer Helmut Schmiedt speaks of one of the "most ludicrous episodes in the history of German literature: The question arises as to why its author invented it and lived it out with such existential vigor." Later May admitted that both the old- Shatterhand legend and all of his works are to be understood only symbolically.

Although May very consciously wanted to distance himself from the ethnological prejudices of his time and wrote against public opinion ( Winnetou , Durchs wilde Kurdistan , Und Friede auf Erden! ), Formulations that are regarded as racist appear in his works today, which reflect the paradigms of his time documents. For example, there are some sweeping negative statements about the Irish, Jews, Armenians, Chinese, blacks, mestizos and Bedouins. On the other hand, Chinese or mestizos are sometimes portrayed in his novels as positive characters who, as exceptional characters, contradict the common clichés. However, May was also influenced by the nationalism and racism that shaped Wilhelmine Germany of his time.

The processing of his estate from 1930 by employees of the Karl May Verlag (KMV) contributed to this judgment. Otto Eicke in particular , former editor of the Münchmeyer publishing house and who has been with KMV since 1918, was influenced by his party-political activities during National Socialism . His handwriting can be recognized especially in volumes 33 Winnetou's Heirs and 65 The Stranger from India . In the last chapter of volume 65 The Stranger from India it says: “All of this filled the prince with deep disgust for the Hebrew and his clan. […] Lena […] proved by an act of criminally blind hatred that she had inherited all the evil properties of this blood from Salomon Rosenbaum and his wife along with the blood. "

The first Winnetou illustration, 1879

May's best-known figure Winnetou , chief of the Mescalero - Apaches , embodies the brave and noble Indian who fights for justice and peace with his “silver box” and his horse Iltschi . He is usually accompanied by his white friend and blood brother Old Shatterhand , from whose narrative perspective the stories about Winnetou are often written.

Karl May's most successful and best-known book (1890/91) is entitled The Treasure in the Silver Lake . It has already been filmed twice: for the first time in 1962 as a real- life film under the original title with Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand and Pierre Brice as Winnetou, and in 1990 as a DEFA puppet film under the title The track leads to the silver lake . In the youth novel published for the first time from 1890–1891 as a serial in the magazine Der Gute Kamerad , the book edition of which was published in 1894, Karl May describes the journey of a group of trappers to the Silver Lake in the Rocky Mountains and the persecution of a group of villains under their leader Cornel Brinkley, also known as "the red Cornel" because of his hair color. The novel has several simultaneous storylines, which finally connect and dissolve at the eponymous Silbersee.

Cover picture for And peace on earth! by Sascha Schneider (1904)

In his late work, the importance of which May himself repeatedly emphasized, May broke away from adventure writing and wrote symbolic novels with an ideological-religious content and a pacifist tendency. Later readers found some of the dominant stylistic features of these novels to be close to surrealism . The late works Ardistan und Dschinnistan (1909), Und Friede auf Erden (1904) and Winnetou IV (1910) are considered to be his literary most important works, although there is also no lack of critical voices that see these texts as an aberration. The friendship with the Art Nouveau painter and sculptor Sascha Schneider had a great influence in connection with this last literary development stage . In him May saw a "German Michel Angelo" and the suitable illustrator of his books. In addition to a series of book cover illustrations, Schneider also created a large mural ( Der Chodem ) for the writer's reception room in his villa in Radebeul.


May wrote his stories and novels under several pseudonyms , including: Capitain Ramon Diaz de la Escosura, M. Gisela, Hobble-Frank, Karl Hohenthal, D. Jam, Prince Muhamêl Lautréaumont, Ernst von Linden, P. van der Löwen, Emma Pollmer and Richard Plöhn. Most of the pseudonym or anonymously published texts are now clearly assigned.

Early work

In his early work Karl May had tried different directions in entertainment literature until he found his profession as an author of travel stories. With regard to the latter, the early work ends with the beginning of the writing of the Orient cycle at the end of 1880. Texts from other literary genres continued to appear until 1883 and are still counted as early work. During his two editorial activities, May had placed many articles in the papers he was responsible for.

The Book of Love (1875/76, compilation , published anonymously)
Geographical Sermons (1875/76)
The two Quitzow's last journeys (1876/77, end not by Karl May)
Captured at sea (1877/78, partly under the title Captured on the High Seas. Parts later in Old Surehand II )
Scepter and hammer (1879/80)
In the Far West (1879, revised by Old Firehand (1875), later edited for Winnetou II )
The Ranger (1879, adaptation of Gabriel Ferry's novel Le Coureur de Bois for young readers)
The Jewel Island (1880–1882, continuation to Scepter and Hammer )

The shorter narratives of the early work can be assigned to the following groups:

Adventure and early travel stories (e.g. Der Oelprinz , 1877, not to be confused with the youth story of the same name )
Erzgebirge village stories (e.g. Die Rose von Ernstthal , 1874 or 1875)
Stories about the old man from Dessau , that is Prince Leopold I of Anhalt-Dessau (e.g. Pandur and Grenadier , 1883)
Historical narratives (e.g. Robert Surcouf , 1882)
Humoresques (e.g. Die Carnachtsnarren , 1875)
Detective novels (e.g. Wanda , 1875)

Many works belong to several groups at the same time; z. B. May wrote historical stories as a military humoresque and provided his Erzgebirge village stories with the criminalistic scheme . In the early narratives in particular, May used local settings, but also selected exotic locations. May's first non-European story, Inn-nu-wo, the Indian chief, already contains a forerunner of the Winnetou figure. In the Far West and The Ranger are the first recorded book editions of May texts. Later, some of the shorter stories appeared in anthologies , e.g. B. in Der Karawanenwürger (1894), Humoresken und Erzählungen (1902) and Erzgebirgische Dorfgeschichten (1903).

His early work also included reflections on natural philosophy and popular scientific texts on history and technology (e.g. Treasures and Treasure Graves , 1875), poems (e.g. My former grave inscription , 1872) as well as letters to the editor and puzzles in the pages he oversees.

Colportage novels

Book edition by Fischer Verlag from 1902 (third part of the novel Waldröschen )

May wrote five thousand-page novels for HG Münchmeyer. These appeared - mainly pseudonymously or anonymously - between 1882 and 1888.

Waldröschen (1882-1884, part of which was edited later in Old Surehand II )
The love of the Uhlan (1883-1885)
The Prodigal Son (1884–1886)
German hearts - German heroes (1885–1888)
The road to happiness (1886–1888)

From 1900 to 1906 Münchmeyer's successor, Adalbert Fischer, published the first book editions, with the novels being divided into several volumes with different titles. (Even with later editions, the individual titles differ from publisher to publisher.) This edition was edited by a third party and was not published under a pseudonym, but under May's real name. It was not authorized by May, and he strongly opposed publication.

Travel stories

Collected Travel Stories, Volume 1 from 1892

Under the title Carl May's Gesammelte Reiseromane or later Karl May's Gesammelte Reiseerzählungen , 33 volumes were published by Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld from 1892 to 1910 . The most famous titles in this series include the Orient cycle (volumes 1–6) and the Winnetou trilogy (7–9). Most of the stories had previously appeared in Deutsches Hausschatz or other magazines; May wrote some volumes directly for this series (e.g. Winnetou I , Old Surehand I & III ). A reliable sequence of these publications cannot be finally determined, which can be explained on the one hand by the (poorly edited) adoption of older texts in the book editions, on the other hand by the fact that May himself was constantly involved in chronological contradictions.

  1. Through the desert and harem (1892, from 1895 through the desert )
  2. Through wild Kurdistan (1892)
  3. From Baghdad to Stambul (1892)
  4. In the gorges of the Balkans (1892)
  5. Through the land of the Skipetars (1892)
  6. The Schut (1892)
  7. Winnetou I (1893, at times also Winnetou the Red Gentleman I )
  8. Winnetou II (1893, temporarily also Winnetou the Red Gentleman II )
  9. Winnetou III (1893, temporarily also Winnetou the Red Gentleman III )
10. Oranges and Dates (1893, anthology)
11. On the Pacific Ocean (1894, anthology)
12. On the Rio de la Plata (1894)
13. In the Cordilleras (1894)
14. Old Surehand I (1894)
15. Old Surehand II (1895)
16. In the Land of Mahdi I (1896)
17. In the land of Mahdi II (1896)
18. In the land of Mahdi III (1896)
19. Old Surehand III (1897)
20. Satan and Iscariot I (1896)
21. Satan and Iscariot II (1897)
22. Satan and Iscariot III (1897)
23. On Foreign Paths (1897, anthology)
24. "Christmas!" (1897)
26. In the kingdom of the silver lion I (1898)
27. In the realm of the silver lion II (1898)
25. On the Hereafter (1899)
28–33 are travel stories that belong to the late work .

There are a few other short travel stories that did not appear in this series. May took one of them in the anthology Die Rose von Kaïrwan (1893 or 1894), which he put together parallel to the collected travel novels .

The series Karl May's Illustrierte Reiseerzählungen (from 1907) is based on this edition, which was revised again by Karl May himself and is considered the final edition . However, it only contains the first 30 volumes, some of which are numbered differently.

After the Karl May Verlag was founded in 1913, many of the volumes in the new series “ Karl May's Collected Works ” were revised and given new titles, some of them radical. In addition, works that had appeared in other publishers were now included in the collected works of Fehsenfeld-Verlag (from volume 35).

Youth stories

First page of the first edition of the Good Comrade (1887), beginning of the story The Son of the Bear Hunter

The youth stories were written in the period from 1887 to 1897 for the magazine Der Gute Kamerad . They were written by Karl May especially for young readers. Most of them play in the Wild West . In contrast to the travel stories, Old Shatterhand is not the first-person narrator here. The most famous story is The Treasure in Silbersee . In a broader sense, the two early works In the Far West and Der Waldläufer also belong to the youth narratives.

Between 1890 and 1899 the Union Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft published an illustrated book edition.

Parallel to these major works, May published shorter stories anonymously or pseudonymously in Guten Kameraden from 1887 to 1891. Most of them were created as illustration texts . Others are among a series of posts under the pseudonym "Hobble-Frank" , a popular character from the Wild West youth stories. Some of his letters to the editor were also published there.

Late work

Book edition from Ardistan and Jinnistan . The cover image by Sascha Schneider shows Marah Durimeh

The later works include those works that appeared after May's trip to the Orient from 1900. Many of them were also published by F. E. Fehsenfeld. Within the collected travel stories volumes 28-33 belong.

Heavenly Thoughts (1900, collection of poems)
28. In the Realm of the Silver Lion III (1902)
Erzgebirge village stories (1903, anthology)
29. In the Realm of the Silver Lion IV (1903)
30. And peace on earth ! (1904)
Babel and the Bible (1906, drama )
31. Ardistan and Jinnistan I (1909)
32. Ardistan and Jinnistan II (1909)
33. Winnetou IV (1910)
My Life and Striving (1910, autobiography)

Shorter stories (e.g. Schamah , 1907), essays (e.g. Letters on Art , 1906/07) and various litigation and defense documents (e.g. “Karl May als Erzieher” and “Die Truth about Karl May ”or Karl May's opponents in their own light , 1902).

Other works

In 1896 a self-deprecating and humorous autobiographical sketch by Karl May appeared in Deutsches Hausschatz : Pleasures and Sorrows of a Well-Read . Unfortunately, May exaggerated this self-portrayal to such an extent that the story alienated even his determined friends and defenders. "The image of the writer, who had been severely depressed by the readers' favor and his successes, turned May into larmoyant" (Christopf F. Lorenz). His opponent Fedor Mamroth saw in this sketch an essential part of his chain of circumstantial evidence, which May stamped as a born, lifelong cheat and liar. Lorenz:

“In the last years of his life, May had to defend himself more than against all other accusations of his opponents against the claim that he had deceived audiences and publishers for years about his criminal past, fooled himself with fictitious stories about alleged world trips, himself a completely unjustified one Doctorate and passed himself off as a Catholic, although he was a born Protestant. "

Mays contributed significantly to this harsh judgment of his contemporaries, both tragically and comically, in his autobiographical sketch Joys and Sorrows of a Well-Read .

Karl May also wrote some compositions, especially during his membership in the choir "Lyra" around 1864. His version of Ave Maria is known (together with Forget Me Not in Ernste Klänge , 1899).

In the last years of his life, May gave the following lectures on his philosophical ideas:

Three human questions : Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? ( Lawrence , 1908)
Sitara, the land of the human soul ( Augsburg , 1909)
Up into the realm of noble men ( Vienna , 1912)

After May's death, some of his estate was published: fragments of stories and dramas, poems (e.g. the collection A Pilgrimage in the Orient from 1899), compositions, his library directory and, above all, letters.

Work editions

Selection of older volumes of the series Karl May's Collected Works

The Karl-May-Verlag has published Karl May's Gesammelte Reiseerzählungen since 1913 . He also acquired the rights to works published elsewhere (including the youth stories and Kolporta writings). Revisions of these texts were appended to the original series and expanded to form the Collected Works (and Letters) , with the original 33 volumes also undergoing significant edits. By 1945 the series had grown to 65 volumes. To this day, the publisher almost exclusively publishes Karl May's works and secondary materials. In addition to the collected works (the classic "green volumes"), which have grown to 94 volumes, he also publishes an extensive program of reprints .

Since the legal protection period for May's works expired in 1963, they have been published by other publishers since then. For a long time, however, Karl May Verlag tried with all legal means to maintain its dominant position over all its competitors. He benefited from the fact that the rights to the original texts were freed, but the adaptations were still worthy of protection - a fact that many competing publishers - often out of ignorance - ignored.

The historical-critical edition of Karl May's works , which is laid out in 120 volumes and was originally edited by Hermann Wiedenroth (until 1998 together with Hans Wollschläger ), has been published since 1987 . This philologically reliable edition endeavors to have the authentic wording printed in the first editions and, where possible, also in the author's manuscripts, and provides information on the history of the text. It was accompanied by - ultimately in vain - efforts by the Karl May Verlag to hinder the competitor with legal means and forbid him to criticize the collected works . After years of disputes and repeated changes of publisher, the historical-critical edition has been published by Karl May Verlag since 2008 , with the Karl May Society responsible for writing and the Karl May Foundation (with the Karl May Museum) for distribution are responsible.

The Weltbild Verlag has published an illustrated edition in 92 volumes, which is considered the best available, nearly complete edition. There were other extensive editions from Bertelsmann (Lesering; 30 volumes, heavily edited text; selection), Verlag Manfred Pawlak (74 volumes; unedited, but incomplete) and Verlag Neues Leben (66 volumes; orthographically modernized original text; edition canceled due to publisher's insolvency). The Karl May Society publishes a series of reprints that primarily make Karl May's magazine publications accessible again.

A digital full-text edition of Directmedia Publishing has been available since 2004. It also gives the planned text corpus of the historical-critical edition z. B. the departments of early work, serial novels, short stories for the youth u. a. again and also contains the so-called reader's album and autobiographical writings.


“ Seen in the light”, says the literary scholar Helmut Schmiedt , “a person who comes from a miserable background and who initially missed a lot in life, writes and stages himself here, a dream existence with which everything is corrected for the better.” - For Karl May is not so much interested in the writer and literary critic Hans Wollschläger as a young writer , but rather only in his old work, for example in Ardistan and Dschinnistan , where he ruthlessly and virtuously dealt with his enemies. In this symbolic late phase, Karl May reached the literary plateau.

Karl May or his work and his world were received in many ways and in all possible media. Direct followers and imitators stand side by side with artists in whose work a trace of Karl May can be found.

Broad impact

International editions of Karl May's works in the Karl May Museum in Radebeul
Indians in the Karl May Museum

Karl May has been one of the most widely read writers in the world for more than 100 years. His work has been translated into 46 languages ​​(as of 2013). The world edition is more than 200 million volumes (approx. 100 million of them in Germany). His books are still very popular today, especially in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Mexico and even Indonesia. It is almost unknown in France , Great Britain and the USA . The first translation appeared in Croatian ( Three carde monte ) in 1880, closely followed by a French translation of the Orient cycle in Le Monde in 1881 , and the most recent are from recent years (Vietnam). In the 1960s, UNESCO stated that May was the most translated German author.

Whole generations drew their image of the Indians or the Orient from his works. Some language terms from both cultures that May used (sometimes not quite correctly) also found their way into everyday language. The Indian greeting or affirmation formula Howgh , the lifting of the horses, the use of Manitu as the name of God and the form of address Mesch'schur can be assigned to the Wild West; the rank designations Efendi , Ağa , Bey , Pascha and Wesir have become common property through his oriental novels.


One of the oldest and simplest adaptations is the cowboy and Indian game, in which Karl May's heroes are embodied. The first official Karl May game, Schnipp, Schnapp , was included in the magazine Der Gute Kamerad in 1894/95 and deals with the youth stories published in this magazine series. The numerous figures made of pewter , mass or plastic that first appeared around 1900 belong to the overlapping area between playing and collecting . Tin figures were also included in the oldest commercial board game, The Journey to the Silver Lake (approx. 1935). The first card games, especially various quartet games , also appeared from around 1935. The Karl May film wave brought a special boost for the latter. During this time (from around 1965) the first puzzles appeared. In the best-known German pen & paper role-playing game Das Schwarze Auge , many of May's works have not only been recommended since 2004 "to deepen the regional flair" of certain Aventurian regions (Deep South, Tulamidenlande, Kosch and Svelltland), but the game was also made with his Feasibility of Karl May fabrics advertised. In addition, since 1989 with the non-player character Kara ben Yngerymm (or Yngerimm) and his writings Durchs wilde Mhanadistan and In den Schluchten der Trollzacken a reference to Karl May (Ingerimm = Mai ) has appeared in this game world (mentions in more than 40 publications, as of January 2017). The only direct adaptation of May's works as a computer game so far took place in 1993 and is based on Der Schatz im Silbersee . The Nintendo DS game WinneToons - Die Legende vom Schatz im Silbersee (2007), which is based on the movie of the same name, should be mentioned as an indirect adaptation .

Karl May's poem Ave Maria , published in 1896, was set to music by at least 19 other people. Other poems of May, especially from Heavenly Thoughts , were also set to other music. May received "Harp Sounds" from Carl Ball as a gift for his drama Babel und Bibel . The Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck wrote an opera for Der Schatz im Silbersee at the age of eleven . Inspired by May's works, particularly Winnetou's death, further music was composed.

The first stage adaptation ( Winnetou ) was created in 1919 by Hermann Dimmler . Revisions of this piece by himself and Ludwig Körner were performed in the following years. Various novel adaptations are also played on open-air stages. The oldest productions have been taking place since 1938 (again from 1984 after a long interruption) on the Rathen rock stage in Saxon Switzerland ; the best known are the annual Karl May Games in Bad Segeberg (since 1952) and the Karl May Festival in Elspe (since 1958). The Karl May games in Bischofswerda , which have been in existence since 1993 and in which children play the characters, offer a special feature . In 2006 alone, pieces by Karl May were performed on 14 stages. May's own drama Babel and Bible has not yet been performed on a larger stage.

Pierre Brice (approx. 1978) as a longtime Winnetou actor in movies, in Karl May games, in a television series and a television film

May's friends Marie Luise Droop and Adolf Droop founded the production company “Ustad-Film” ( Ustad = Karl May) in cooperation with the Karl-May-Verlag . Following the Orient cycle , they produced three silent films in 1920 ( On the Rubble of Paradise , The Caravan of Death and The Devil Worshipers ). Due to the lack of success, the company went bankrupt the following year. In 1936 the first sound film was released with Durch die Desert , and this was followed by the first color films with Die Sklavenkarawane (1958) and its sequel The Lion of Babylon (1959) . Karl May experienced a renewed upswing in the course of the Karl May films of the 1960s, the most successful German cinema series. Most of the 18 films are set in the Wild West, beginning in 1962 with Der Schatz im Silbersee . The majority was produced by Horst Wendlandt or Artur Brauner . Recurring leading actors were Lex Barker (Old Shatterhand, Kara Ben Nemsi, Karl Sternau), Pierre Brice (Winnetou), Stewart Granger (Old Surehand), Milan Srdoč (Old Wabble) and Ralf Wolter (Sam Hawkens, Hadschi Halef Omar, André Hasenpfeffer) . Martin Böttcher's film music and the landscapes of Yugoslavia , where most of the films were shot, played a key role in the success of the series. In the following years, further films were made for the cinema ( The track leads to the silver lake , 1990) or television (e.g. Das Buschgespenst , 1986, Winnetou - The Mythos Lives , 2016) and TV series (e.g. Kara Ben Nemsi Effendi , 1973/75). Most films have almost nothing in common with books.

No more radio play adaptations were made to any work by another German author . There are now over 300 in German; Danish and Czech radio plays were also produced. Günther Bibo wrote the first one ( Der Schatz im Silbersee ) in 1929. A larger wave of radio plays followed during the 1950s and 1960s; the latest productions appeared recently. In the 1950s, the NWDR Cologne and later its legal successor, the WDR , produced three multi-part radio plays, namely Winnetou , Der Schatz im Silbersee and Old Surehand , under the direction of Kurt Meister . The role of Old Shatterhand was spoken by Kurt Lieck . Jürgen Goslar , Hansjörg Felmy and Werner Rundshagen gave Winnetou their voice. One of the more recent, larger implementations is the twelve-part WDR production The Orient Cycle (2006), in which May's life up to 1874 was also integrated.

From 1930 motifs from May's works or the stage and film adaptations were used for collective pictures . The first two waves took place in the 1930s and post-war years. At the time, the images were primarily used to create customer loyalty for margarine, cheese, cigarettes, chewing gum, tea and other products from various manufacturers. The third wave took place in the course of the Karl May films in the 1960s, when scrapbooks were released for the films. The drawn pictures come either from the Karl May illustrators Carl Lindeberg (from 1930 and over 50 years many new editions) and Roy Paul Drake (= Petr Milos Sadecký. 1975). or unknown artists. In addition to photos from the films, recordings of the Karl May games in Rathen (colorized) and Bad Segeberg as well as the TV series Mein Freund Winnetou were used. By the 1980s, over 90 series of collectibles had appeared (as of 2009).

Also in the wake of the success of the Karl May films, some comics were created based on Karl May's motifs. A second wave of comics followed in the 1970s. The first and most successful adaptations, Winnetou (# 1-8) / Karl May (# 9-52) (1963–1965), were made by Helmut Nickel and published by Walter Lehning Verlag . The Flemish comic series “Karl May” (1962–1987), which apart from the main characters, has very little in common with the novel, but which had some success with 87 episodes, is curious. This series was published by the Dutch-speaking publisher Standaard Uitgeverij at Willy Vandersteen's studio . Comics were also made in Denmark , France , Mexico , Sweden , Spain and Czechoslovakia .

In 1988 the first audio book read by Gert Westphal appeared with Der Schatz im Silbersee . "When will I see you again, dear, dear Winnetou?" (1995) is a compendium of Karl May texts that are read by Hermann Wiedenroth . Since 1998 around 50 audio books have been published by various publishers.

Karl May and his life were also the basis for film adaptations, for example in acquittal for Old Shatterhand (1965), Karl May (1974, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg) and in a six-part television series Karl May (1992). Acting is also used in the episodes Karl May - Der Phantast aus Sachsen (2004) and Karl May - The Last Riddle (2010) of the documentary series History of Central Germany and Terra X , respectively . In the meantime there are also various novels with or about Karl May, for example Swallow, mein wackerer Mustang (1980) by Erich Loest , From the desire to become Indian. How Franz Kafka met Karl May and still did not end up in America (1994) by Peter Henisch , Old Shatterhand in Moabit (1994) by Walter Püschel , and Karl May und der Wettermacher (2001) by Jürgen Heinzerling . A stage adaptation is The Pocket Watch of the Other by Willi Olbrich . Further dramatizations followed; one of the most recent is the play Der Phantast. Life and death of Dr. Karl May (2017, idea and direction: Philipp Stölzl ).

In addition to Karl May, today's environment was also received; This is how the Tatort episode Auf dem Kriegspfad (1999) takes place in the Karl May Museum and on the Rathen rock stage among Karl May fans and amateur Indians. The cinema film Winnetous Sohn (2015) also addresses open-air performances and Indians play , while the television film Winnetous Weiber (2014) deals with a Winne tour to different locations of the Karl May films in Croatia.

Copies and parodies

May was parodied or blatantly copied during his lifetime . While some authors only wrote similar Wild West stories in order to share in May's literary success (e.g. Franz Treller ), others published their works under May's name. Even today new novels with his heroes appear. The sequels by Franz Kandolf , Edmund Theil , Friederike Chudoba , Jörg Kastner , Heinz Grill , Otto Emersleben , Thomas Jeier , Jutta Laroche , Reinhard Marheinecke and Iris Wörner became famous . In 2017, on the occasion of Karl May's 175th birthday, the Karl May House dedicated a special exhibition to the continuers.

In 2000, a radio play written in 1955 by the leading comedians at the time, directed by Jürgen von der Lippe , was re-recorded under the title "Ja uff erstmal" and broadcast for the first time in a long WDR night. After the positive response, this parody was also published as a radio play.

In 2001 the movie Der Schuh des Manitu by Michael Herbig alias "Bully" was released, which is considered to be one of the most successful German films since the Second World War. He parodies less the books than the film adaptations with Pierre Brice and Lex Barker and is based on the similar parody in his comedy show Bullyparade .

Published in 2004, Roger Willemsen with A shot, a scream - the most by Karl May , a parody processing of Karl May substances in rhyme . In 23 poems he recounts 23 novels by Karl May.

Commemorations and honors

From 1929 the former Bahnstrasse in Hohenstein-Ernstthal was renamed Karl-May-Strasse (in 1929 one part was first renamed; in 1932 and 1935 further parts). The name was also retained during the GDR era. On February 25, 1992, on the 150th birthday of the poet on the Neumarkt in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, a Karl May bust by the Berlin sculptor Wilfried Fitzenreiter was unveiled with a large public participation. In Hohenstein-Ernstthal, all of the May sites that have been preserved are marked with commemorative plaques. Outside the city lies the Karl May Cave , in which May found temporary shelter during 1869. The primary school center of the city of Hohenstein-Ernstthal, which was renamed in 2007, is called Karl-May-Grundschule. This makes it the only school in Germany with Karl May as its namesake.

From 1932 to 1945 and again since 1985, the street in Radebeul where May last lived and where his Villa Shatterhand is located is called Karl-May-Straße in his honor .

In 1987 the Deutsche Bundespost issued a stamp with Winnetou , one of his most famous characters, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of his death .

Heinz-Albert Heindrichs expressly calls his phonetic poem ay from his volume of poetry Die Nonnensense in a note a “hommage a karl may”. The name of the poet, his place of residence and his characters are presented in abbreviated form: arl ay "," rara debe ul. "I shattrnd" etc.

On October 13, 2000, the asteroid (15728) Karlmay, discovered in 1990, was named after him.

Outside the museums around Karl May, various exhibitions on his life, work and impact are also shown. The first is said to have taken place in Vienna in 1935 and numerous others followed. One of the more recent, larger exhibitions took place under the title "Karl May - Imaginäre Reisen" at the German Historical Museum Berlin in 2007/08. Exhibitions were also shown outside of German-speaking countries. For example, in the western town of Tombstone ( Arizona , USA), on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Karl May's death, an exhibition opened for one year, including exhibits from Radebeul , about the life of the German writer and his perspective on the Native Americans. It is an updated version of an exhibition that was shown in the same place in 2009.

Reception history

Reception from 1913 to 1933

The Karl May reception from 1913 to 1933 was shaped by the reputation-damaging aftermath of the Karl May trials, the founding of the Karl May Verlag (KMV) and the publication of the collected works, as well as the repeatedly flaring criticism of the allegedly youthful “ junk literature “Karl Mays.

The twenties also brought a certain calming down in the Karl May dispute. Thanks mainly to the efforts of the KMV, it was possible to put Karl May's reputation as a writer back into a somewhat positive image. This was of course also expressed in an increase in the number of copies of the collected works , from 1.6 million volumes (1913) the number rose to 4.3 million (1926).

In these years the KMV had already considerably expanded the series of collected works . Above all, the once controversial Münchmeyer novels and other early works by May were incorporated into the series, some of which were substantial. However, the processing practice of the KMV is still very controversial today.

Reception from 1933 to 1945

The Karl May reception from 1933 to 1945 was a difficult, double-edged matter. Personal admiration for Karl May on the one hand - ideological adjustment problems, abuse and processing of his writings on the other.

It was a successful time for Karl-May-Verlag : Sales of May volumes rose to 9.3 million (1945).

The Karl May Festival , which has been taking place with great success on the Rathen rock stage in Saxon Switzerland since 1938, played a major role in the increasing popularity of May's works .

The harsh judgment of Klaus Mann , uttered in 1940 in American exile , that the Third Reich was Karl May's ultimate triumph, “the terrible realization of his dreams”, is no longer shared today. The literary scholar Gunter Scholdt believes rather that it was not May's influence on Hitler , but, on the contrary, that his too little influence was “what was actually fatal!”.

Reception since 1945

The Karl May reception since 1945 has been shaped by important publishing decisions to distribute Karl May's writings in modern times and by the discovery of new media such as radio , cinema , television and the Internet . The Karl May Festival and Karl May Festival , which take place in many places, are significant . Despite decreasing reading of May's writings, the Karl May figures remain culturally formative.

Reception in the GDR

Karl May's books were not printed in the GDR for a long time because he was considered an imperialist and a fascist. Cultural policy debates led to Winnetou finally being printed in 1982.

Karl May institutions

Karl May Foundation

In his will, Karl May appointed his second wife Klara as a universal heir, on the condition that, upon her death, all of his possessions and the other income from his works go to a foundation that supports talented people with poor resources for their training and writers, journalists and editors who are in need through no fault of their own should. This foundation was established a year after May's death on March 5, 1913. Donations have been made since 1917. Through inheritance contracts and wills from Klara May, the entire estate of Karl and Klara May finally went to the Karl May Foundation with the proviso that the Villa “Shatterhand” , the properties and collections be expanded into a Karl May Museum (the foundation took place during Klara May's lifetime) and to maintain the tomb. In 1960 the company separated from the Karl-May-Verlag, in which the foundation had a two-thirds stake, with parts of the estate being transferred to them. Thomas Grübner has been the chairman and Ralf Harder the deputy chairman of the Karl May Foundation since 2019 .

Karl May Publishing House

On July 1, 1913, Klara May, Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld (May's house publisher) and the jurist Euchar Albrecht Schmid founded the "Stiftungs-Verlag Fehsenfeld & Co." in Radebeul, which from 1915 was renamed "Karl May Verlag" (KMV) wore. They succeeded in settling all legal disputes (among other things because of the colportage novels) and acquiring the rights to works published by other publishers. The existing series of Collected Travel Stories was expanded to include revisions of these texts and renamed Collected Works . Another goal of the KMV was May's rehabilitation against literary studies and criticism, as well as promoting the Karl May Foundation.

After Fehsenfeld's contractual retirement in 1921 and separation from the Karl May Foundation (as Klara May's heir) in 1960, the KMV is in the hands of the Schmid family. Due to the relationship between the authorities in the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR and Karl May, the KMV moved to Bamberg in 1959 , but has also been represented in Radebeul again since 1996. When the copyright protection period expired in 1963, the KMV lost its monopoly position. A forced commercialization of May followed. The name Karl May is a registered trademark of the "Karl May Verwaltungs- und Vertriebs-GmbH" of the KMV.



"Villa Shatterhand"
"Villa Bärenfett"

A Karl May Museum was opened in Radebeul on December 1, 1928 in the “ Villa Bärenfett ” , and Karl May's “ Villa Shatterhand ” house has also been used for the museum since 1985 . In addition to May's preserved library, which can be used for research purposes on request, rooms that have been restored to the original state are also part of the exhibition. Among other things, replicas of the weapons " Henrystutzen ", "Bärentöter" and "Silberbüchse" as well as a bust of Winnetou are on display.

In the "Villa Bärenfett" (built by Radebeul architect Max Czopka ) at the far end of the garden, there is now an Indian museum on the history and life of the North American Indians. The foundation of the Indian collection was laid by Karl May himself and supplemented by his widow Klara May. The largest and most significant part comes from Patty Frank (actually Ernst Tobis ), who made his entire collection available, in return became curator of the museum and was allowed to live in the Villa Bärenfett free of charge until his death. The "fireplace room" of Villa Bärenfett also serves as an event location.


In Hohenstein-Ernstthal is the listed Karl-May-Haus , in which Karl May was born on February 25, 1842. In 1929, a commemorative plaque for the city's most famous son was attached to the 300 year old weaver's house. In the course of the May renaissance in the GDR, it became a memorial and museum in 1985 sponsored by the city administration. It has been headed by the historian André Neubert since 1993, assisted by an advisory board chaired by Hans-Dieter Steinmetz. In addition to the permanent exhibition on May's biography, there are also restored rooms, such as a weaver's room, and a large collection of foreign-language editions.

In addition to the actual birthplace, the complex also includes a meeting place on the opposite side of the street, in which a large special exhibition is shown annually between February 25 and March 30, and smaller exhibitions spread over the year. Public lectures and the conferences of the Museum's Scientific Advisory Board take place there regularly. The surviving study of Werner Legère , whose estate is kept in the Karl May House, is also part of the exhibition . Opposite the Karl-May-Haus (and next to the meeting place) there has been a publicly accessible lapidarium since summer 2006 .


The first associations were formed during May's lifetime, such as the “Karl May Clubs” in the 1890s. Even today there are various working groups or groups of friends who deal with Karl May and often appear in public with series of events. While the earlier associations served to worship May or to ward off attacks on May, the later ones also have research intentions. There are associations in the vicinity of the two museums (Förderverein Karl-May-Museum Radebeul; Förderverein Karl-May-Haus) and - without a specific reference point - in Vienna, Cottbus, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Berlin. There are also associations in non-German-speaking areas, such as in the Netherlands, Australia and Indonesia.

While many of these associations issue their own publications ( The Observer on the Elbe , Karl-May-Haus Information , Wiener Karl-May-Brief , Karl May in Leipzig ), the magazine Karl May & Co. exists independently.

The largest association is the Karl May Society with almost 1,800 members. It was founded on March 22, 1969. Her aim is to research May's life and work, including his history of reception and impact. In addition, May and his work should be given an appropriate place in literary history and remain alive in public. The various publications include the “Yearbook of the Karl May Society” (one volume every year since 1970), the communications and special issues of the Karl May Society , the KMG news and an extensive reprint program.

See also


  • Viktor Böhm: Karl May and the secret of his success. 2nd, revised edition. Prisma-Verlag, Gütersloh 1979, ISBN 3-19-500374-0 .
  • Rainer Buck: Karl May. The Winnetou author and the Christian faith. With a foreword by Jens Böttcher , Moers: Brendow 2012.
  • Annette DeekenMay, Karl. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 16, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-428-00197-4 , pp. 519-522 ( digitized version ).
  • Otto Eicke : The buried source. In: Karl-May-Jahrbuch 1930. (online version) , pp. 65–76.
  • Christian Heermann : Winnetou's blood brother. Karl May biography. Second, revised and expanded edition. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 2012, ISBN 978-3-7802-0161-4 .
  • Wolfgang Hermesmeier, Stefan Schmatz : Dream Worlds I. Pictures of the work of Karl May . Karl-May-Verlag Bamberg-Radebeul 2004. ISBN 978-3-7802-0166-9 . (The first volume presents illustrators and their work up to 1912. This includes artists such as Fritz and Claus Bergen , Willy Moralt , Gustave Fraipont, Willy Planck , Sascha Schneider , Peter Schnorr, Oskar Herrfurth , Ewald Thiel , Věnceslav Černý, Theodor Volz, Konrad Weigand and many others.)
  • Frederik Hetmann : "Old Shatterhand, that's me". The life story of Karl May. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim and Basel 2000, ISBN 3-407-80872-0 .
  • Gerhard Klußmeier , Hainer Plaul: Karl May and his time. Pictures, documents, texts. A picture biography. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg 2007, ISBN 978-3-7802-0181-2 .
  • Thomas Kramer : Karl May. A biographical portrait. Herder Publishing House, Freiburg im Breisgau 2012, ISBN 978-3-451-06237-7 .
  • Hartmut Kühne, Christoph F. Lorenz: Karl May and the music. Bamberg / Radebeul 1999, ISBN 3-7802-0154-2 .
  • Holger Kuße (Ed.): Karl Mays Friedenswege. His work between ethnic stereotype and pacifism , Bamberg / Radebeul: Karl-May-Verlag 2013; including:
    • Thomas Kramer: Apaches, Goths, Knights of the Order. Stereotypes and xenophobias in Karl May and in the historical novel of his time , p. 117 ff.
    • Ludger Udolph: Jews and Judaism in Karl May , p. 146 ff.
    • Johannes Zeilinger : In the land of the Mahdi - Karl May meets Islamic fundamentalism , p. 183 ff.
    • Svenja Bach: In dialogue with the Orient. Interreligious Conversations as an Expression of the Central Conflict in Karl May's Orient Cycle , p. 225 ff.
    • Wilhelm Brauneder : Karl May's emigration to North America as a model for internal and external pacification , p. 266 ff.
    • Holger Kuße: “A good spirit speaks all languages” - the meeting of cultures in Karl May's work and the literature of the 19th century , p. 283 ff.
  • Christoph F. Lorenz (Ed.): Between heaven and hell. Karl May and religion. Bamberg 2013 (2nd, supplemented edition), ISBN 978-3-7802-0165-2 .
  • Michael Petzel, Jürgen Wehnert: The new lexicon around Karl May. Lexicon Imprint Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-89602-509-0 .
  • Hainer Plaul: Illustrated Karl May Bibliography. With the participation of Gerhard Klußmeier. Saur, Munich / London / New York / Paris 1989, ISBN 3-598-07258-9 .
  • Claus Roxin et al. (Ed.): Year book of the Karl May Society. Husum since 1970. (Incomplete full-text edition on the Internet).
  • Claus Roxin: Karl May, criminal law and literature. Essays (= Promenade. Volume 8). Klöpfer, Meyer & Co., Tübingen 1997, ISBN 3-931402-10-X .
  • Rüdiger Schaper: Karl May: subject, impostor, superman. Siedler-Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-88680-975-2 .
  • Lothar Schmid : 90 years of publishing work for Karl May. In: The polished diamond. Special volume on the collected works. Karl-May-Verlag Bamberg-Radebeul 2003, ISBN 3-7802-0160-7 , pp. 5-88.
  • Arno Schmidt : Abu Kital. From the new grand mystic. In: Dya Na Sore. Conversations in a library. Karlsruhe 1958, pp. 150-193; today in: Arno Schmidt: Dialoge 2 (Bargfeld edition, group of works II / 2). Zurich 1990, pp. 31-59.
  • Helmut Schmiedt : The writer Karl May. Contributions to work and effect. Edited by Helga Arend. Hansa, Husum 2000, ISBN 3-920421-79-5 .
  • Helmut Schmiedt: Karl May or The Power of Fantasy. CH Beck Verlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-62116-1 .
  • Dieter Sudhoff , Hans-Dieter Steinmetz (Hrsg.): Karl-May-Chronik. 5 volumes + accompanying book. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg 2005-2006, ISBN 3-7802-0170-4 .
  • Gert Ueding (Ed.): Karl May Handbook. 2nd, expanded and revised edition. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2001, ISBN 3-8260-1813-3 .
  • Hartmut Vollmer (Ed.): Karl May for pleasure , Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam jun. 2011, ISBN 978-3-15-018801-9 .
  • Hermann Wohlgschaft : Karl May - life and work. 3 volumes. Book store , Bargfeld 2005, ISBN 3-930713-93-4 . ( Online version of the first version and T. Große Karl May biography from 1994)
  • Pete Wolf: Karl May in "East" and "West". For May reception in ČSSR, Hungary, Poland and other countries. (= Special issue of the Karl May Society. No. 77). From the English and with notes and appendix by Hanswilhelm Haefs . Karl May Society, Berlin 1988, DNB 951324497 .
  • Hans Wollschläger : Karl May: Outline of a broken life . Diogenes, Zurich 1965. (2nd edition 1976, ISBN 3-257-20253-9 , 3rd edition. Wallstein, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-89244-740-3 )
  • Erich Wulffen : Karl May's Inferno. A criminal psychological biography . Edited and commented by Albrecht Götz von Olenhusen and Jürgen Seul with the assistance of Sigrid Seltmann, Bamberg / Radebeul: Karl-May-Verlag 2017, ISBN 978-3-7802-0561-2 .

Web links

Commons : Karl May  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Karl May  - Sources and full texts

To the literary work




References and comments

  1. The spelling of the first name with C or K is explained by the binding rules for spelling and naming that were only established in the course of May's life (introduction of the civil status system in 1875). The cause of the general change from the C to a K may also be of a political nature. In any case, May was born as Carl Friedrich May , in the last twenty years of his life he always signed with Karl (Friedrich) May .
  2. As of March 2012.
  3. ^ History of the Karl May radio plays
  4. ^ Portal: Comics
  5. Karl May: My life and striving. Verlag Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld, Freiburg im Breisgau 1910, p. 16.
  6. Summary of the controversy under Karl May's blindness
  7. In GW 34 , p. 87, May later writes: “Anyone who stood on the pulpit as a little schoolboy and sang with a cheerfully raised voice in front of the listening community that a bright light would appear and from now on there would be no end to peace Allusion to the solo song Isaiah 9: 1-5-6], which accompanies, if he does not absolutely resist it, that star of Bethlehem through life, which continues to shine even when all other stars go out. "(Quoted by Hartmut Kühne, Christoph F. Lorenz: Karl May and the music ... 1999, p. 13.)
  8. Karl May: My life and striving . Olms, Hildesheim 1975, ISBN 3-487-08084-2 (facsimile reprint of the Freiburg 1910 edition).
  9. Karl May: My life and striving. Verlag Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld, Freiburg im Breisgau 1910, p. 129.
  10. ^ Entry on the Second Vagant Period in the Karl May Wiki
  11. Karl May: My life and striving. Verlag Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld, Freiburg im Breisgau 1910, pp. 172 f., 176 f.
  12. Karl May: My life and striving. Verlag Friedrich Ernst Fehsenfeld, Freiburg im Breisgau 1910, p. 175.
  13. ^ Hainer Plaul: Social rehabilitation through “progressive penal execution”. About Karl May's stay in Waldheim prison from May 1870 to May 1874. In: Claus Roxin, Heinz Stolte, Hans Wollschläger (eds.): Yearbook of the Karl May Society 1976. Hansa-Verlag, Hamburg 1976, ISBN 3-920421 -31-0 , pp. 105-170 (156).
  14. on the dating problem, see entry in the Karl May Wiki
  15. D. Sudhoff, H.-D. Steinmetz: Karl May Chronicle. Volume I, p. 221 f.
  16. D. Sudhoff, H.-D. Steinmetz: Karl May Chronicle. Volume I, p. 232, passim
  17. ^ Erich Schwinge : Karl May's punishment for presumption of office (Stollberg case). In: Fritz Maschke: Karl May and Emma Pollmer. The story of a marriage. Bamberg 1973, pp. 130-136.
  18. Scan on General German Literature Calendar
  19. Helmut Schmiedt: Karl May or the power of the imagination. quoted from Hartmut Horstmann: The writing superlative. In: Westfalen-Blatt. March 30, 2012.
  20. after K. May: A trash publishing house. A trash publisher and its accomplices. KMV, 1982, p. 283 he was introduced by his then publisher Münchmeyer as a “doctor” and he just never contradicted.
  21. Hans-Dieter Steinmetz: Isn't that the Dresden doctor ...? In: Karl May House Information. Issue 13, p. 1.
  22. H.-D. Steinmetz: Isn't that the Dresden doctor ...? In: Karl May House Information. Issue 13, p. 2.
  23. ^ Information from the Kötzschenbroda municipal administration dated May 14, 1908; quoted from R. Lebius: Die Zeugen Karl May and Klara May. Berlin, 1910 (Reprint 1991), p. 17 f. and p. 320.
  24. HD Steinmetz: Isn't that the Dresden doctor ...? In: Karl May House Information. Issue 13, p. 6.
  25. Jürgen Seul: Old Shatterhand in court. The 100 trials of the writer Karl May. Bamberg / Radebeul 2009, ISBN 978-3-7802-0186-7 , pp. 372–387.
  26. Egon Erwin Kisch: In the Villa Shatterhand. In: Bohemia. Prague , May 15, 1910 (Whitsun supplement), quoted from communications from the Karl May Society. No. 14, 1972, pp. 19-22.
  27. Wolfgang Bittner : Friedrich Gerstäcker - Exciting, unruly and contradicting. Epilogue in: Friedrich Gerstäcker: The regulators in Arkansas. Ed .: Wolfgang Bittner and Thomas Ostwald. Union Verlag, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-8139-5650-4 , pp. 586-590.
  28. Wolfgang Bittner : The Lord of Greif and Klau. In: Art and Culture. No. 3/2012, p. 16.
  29. Gunther Martin Göttsche : A fugue by Bach. Karl May at the organ of the Erlöserkirche Jerusalem , in: Karl May & Co. No. 143/2016, pp. 54–57.
  30. Hartmut Kühne, Christoph F. Lorenz: Karl May und die Musik ... 1999, p. 24 f.
  31. Quoted from In distant zones . Karl-May-Verlag, 1999, p. 42.
  32. H. Wollschläger, E. Bartsch: Karl Mays Orientreise 1899/1900. In: Karl May: In distant zones. Karl-May-Verlag, 1999, p. 42.
  33. Survey by the Academic Association for Literature and Music
  34. Our Karl May. On: karl-may-grundschule.de
  35. Karl May: Winnetou inventor probably died of lead poisoning. In: Spiegel Online. March 30, 2016, accessed March 30, 2016.
  36. ^ Siegfried Augustin : The early employees of the Karl May publishing house. In: Lothar Schmid, Bernhard Schmid: The cut diamond. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg 2003, ISBN 3-7802-0160-7 , p. 332.
  37. Karl May: The stranger from India. Karl May Verlag Fehsenfeld & Co., Radebeul near Dresden 1939, p. 464 f.
  38. Werner Thiede: I'm just a humble grass. Contours of the Christian-mystical spirituality of Karl May. In: Herder correspondence. 2012, pp. 154–158. ISSN  0018-0645 .
  39. ^ Karl May: Correspondence with Sascha Schneider. quoted from Hartmut Horstmann: The writing superlative. In: Westfalen-Blatt. March 30, 2012.
  40. ^ Euchar Albrecht Schmid, [Christoph F. Lorenz, Ekkehard Bartsch]: Shape and Idea. In: Karl May: I. Karl May's life and work. (= Karl May's Collected Works. Volume 34). 39th edition. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg 1992, ISBN 3-7802-0034-1 , pp. 369-376.
  41. D. Sudhoff, H.-D. Steinmetz: Karl May Chronicle. Volume I, p. 265.
  42. Shamelessness on color plates. on: faz.net , January 25, 2007, features section.
  43. D. Sudhoff, H.-D. Steinmetz: Karl May Chronicle. Volume I, p. 246 and p. 256.
  44. A comparative overview of Karl May editions is the concordance list of the various (current) editions ( Memento of September 14, 2009 in the Internet Archive ). In: karl-may-leipzig.de, accessed on September 6, 2010.
  45. Jürgen Wehnert: The text. In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, pp. 116-130.
  46. For the arrangements see the article Karl-May-Verlag or - if available - the respective article on a text.
  47. ^ Euchar Albrecht Schmid: Shape and Idea. In: Karl May. I. 39th edition. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg 1995, pp. 367-420.
  48. Christoph F. Lorenz: From the jewel island to Mount Winnetou. Notes on three text edits . In: The cut diamond . Karl-May-Verlag Bamberg-Radebeul 2003, p. 209 ff., Here p. 225.
  49. Lorenz: From the Jewel Island to Mount Winnetou ... , 2013, p. 226.
  50. Hartmut Kühne, Christoph F. Lorenz: Karl May and the music. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 1999.
  51. Like a terrier. The Karl-May-Verlag is fighting for its only author. In: Der Spiegel. No. 18, May 1, 1995.
  52. See the entry Karl Mays Werke (HKA) in the Karl May Wiki
  53. ^ Hermann Wiedenroth (Ed.): Karl Mays Werke. Directmedia Publishing, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-89853-477-4 .
  54. Helmut Schmiedt: Karl May or the power of the imagination. Munich 2011.
  55. Hans Wollschläger: Karl May - Outline of a broken life. Zurich 1965.
  56. Reception (overview) - Karl-May-Wiki. Retrieved June 9, 2020 .
  57. ^ André Neubert: The Karl-May-Haus and its meeting place as a place for intercultural encounters. In: Holger Kuße (Ed.): Karl Mays Friedenswege. His work between the stereotype of nations and pacifism. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 2013, ISBN 978-3-7802-0198-0 , p. 533.
  58. Hans-Dieter Steinmetz: No, not in France! May's international reception began in Croatia as early as 1880. In: Communications from the Karl May Society. No. 191/2017, pp. 60-66.
  59. ^ Ulrich von Thüna: Translations. In: Ueding: Karl May Handbook. Pp. 519-522.
  60. M. Petzel, J. Wehnert: The new lexicon around Karl May. Lexikon-Imprint-Verlag, Berlin 2002, p. 448 f.
  61. ^ Rolf Dernen: Schnipp, Schnapp - The first Karl May game - Karl May parlor games (I). In: Karl May & Co. No. 112/2008, p. 83.
  62. M. Petzel, J. Wehnert: The new lexicon around Karl May. 2002, p. 511 f.
  63. Malte Ristau, Wolfgang Willmann: Figure worlds after Karl May - toy and collectible figures made of tin, mass and plastic. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 2015, ISBN 978-3-7802-0128-7 .
  64. Thomas Winkler: Karl May in the game. In: Michael Petzel, Jürgen Wehnert (eds.): Karl-May-Welten II. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 2006, ISBN 3-7802-3026-7 , pp. 121-149.
  65. Stefan Küppers (editor): In the jungles of Meridianas. The Empire of Al'Anfa and the lands of the forest people. 3. Edition. Ulisses Medien & Distribution GmbH, Waldems 2010, ISBN 978-3-940424-45-7 , p. 201.
  66. ^ Frank Bartels, Chris Gosse, Stefan Küppers (editors): Raschtuls Atem. The Khôm desert, the lizard swamps and the southern Rashtul Wall. Fantasy Productions Verlags- und Medienvertriebsgesellschaft mbH, Erkrath 2004, ISBN 3-89064-299-3 , p. 190.
  67. ^ Frank Wilco Bartels, Chris Gosse (editor): Land of the First Sun. Mhanadistan, Arania, Gorien, the Balash and Thalusien. Fantasy Productions Verlags- und Medienvertriebsgesellschaft mbH, Erkrath 2005, ISBN 3-89064-203-9 , p. 189.
  68. Momo Evers (general editor): On the Great River. Albernia, Windhag, Nordmarken, Kosch and the fairy lands. Fantasy Productions Verlags- und Medienvertriebsgesellschaft mbH, Erkrath 2005, ISBN 3-89064-204-7 , p. 210.
  69. ^ Stefan Küppers (editor): Empire of the Red Moon. The Orkland and the land at Svellt. Ulisses Medien & Distribution GmbH, Waldems 2011, ISBN 978-3-940424-39-6 , p. 185.
  70. Carsten-Dirk Jost, Florian Don-Schauen : Off to adventure! An overview of all DSA publications. In: Momo Evers (ed.): Magical times. Fantasy Productions Verlags- und Medienvertriebsgesellschaft mbH, Erkrath 2005, ISBN 3-89064-516-X , pp. 412-491 (419 f.).
  71. Wiki Aventurica: Kara ben Yngerymm , accessed on January 30, 2017.
  72. Wiki Aventurica: Through the Wild Mhanadistan , accessed January 30, 2017.
  73. M. Petzel, J. Wehnert: The new lexicon around Karl May. 2002, p. 80 f.
  74. PLANETDS.de , accessed on June 7, 2020.
  75. Hartmut Kühne: Settings. In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, pp. 532-535.
  76. Hans Otto Hatzig: dramatizations. In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, pp. 523-526.
  77. M. Petzel, J. Wehnert: The new lexicon around Karl May. 2002, p. 456.
  78. a b Hans Otto Hatzig: films. In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, pp. 527-531.
  79. a b M. Petzel, J. Wehnert: The new lexicon around Karl May. 2002, p. 185 f.
  80. ^ A b Karl May radio plays and audio books - Karl May radio plays - The comprehensive overview. Retrieved June 9, 2020 .
  81. The internet database of the ARD radio play archive
  82. ^ WDR: radio play "The Orient Cycle" , accessed on February 17, 2017.
  83. Thomas Winkler: From hunters and collectors. Karl May collector's pictures and albums. In: Jürgen Wehnert, Michael Petzel (Ed.): Karl-May-Welten III. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg / Radebeul 2009, ISBN 978-3-7802-3027-0 , pp. 129-168.
  84. ^ Michael Petzel: Comics and picture stories. In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, pp. 539-545.
  85. The Phantast. ( Memento from January 20, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) at: staatsschauspiel-dresden.de
  86. On the warpath . In: DasErste.de.
  87. ^ Winnetou's son , accessed September 26, 2020.
  88. Winnetou's women . In: DasErste.de.
  89. ^ Jürgen Wehnert: continuations, additions and adaptations. In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, pp. 509-511.
  90. Maximum card with special cancellation February 12, 1987
  91. ^ Heinz-Albert Heindrichs: The nunsene. Sound and nonsense poems. (= Collected poems. VII). Rimbaud, Aachen 2008, ISBN 978-3-89086-535-5 , p. 132; the poem can be found on p. 74.
  92. Minor Planet Circ. 41388
  93. Karl-May-Wiki: Karl-May-Exhibition in the Vienna Urania , accessed on February 18, 2017.
  94. ^ Erwin Müller: Memorials and exhibitions. In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, pp. 551-553.
  95. ^ Sabine Beneke, Johannes Zeilinger: Karl May - Imaginäre Reisen. Exhibition catalog. DruckVerlag Kettler, Böhnen 2007, ISBN 978-3-939825-44-9 .
  96. Tombstone (Arizona) opened a Karl May Museum in early May 2012 , accessed on June 12, 2012.
  97. ^ Arizona State Parks: German Author Karl May Exhibit at Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. ( Memento of December 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), January 8, 2009.
  98. a b processing - Karl-May-Wiki. Retrieved June 9, 2020 .
  99. Abused in the Third Reich. Retrieved June 9, 2020 .
  100. “Among the most sold German-language works between 1933 and 1944, Der Schatz im Silbersee was ranked in 1935 with 186,000 copies; in the period from 1933 to 1944 a total circulation of 300,000 was determined. In this period of time, the work ranks 38th among the bestsellers of the time. ”(Albrecht Götz von Olenhusen: Mitteilungen der Karl-May-Gesellschaft (M-KMG) No. 143/2005, p. 35)
  101. Klaus Mann: Cowboy Mentor of the Führer.
  102. Gunter Scholdt: Hitler, Karl May and the emigrants. In: JbKMG. 1984, p. 85.
  103. Joachim Scholl: 50 classics: German writers - Karl May.Gerstenberg Verlag, Hildesheim 2010, ISBN 978-3-8369-2580-8 , p. 108.
  104. ^ Euchar Albrecht Schmid: Karl May's death and legacy. S. 352 ff., 362 ff. In: Karl May: Ich. 39th edition. Karl-May-Verlag, Bamberg 1995, pp. 327-3365.
  105. a b René Wagner: Karl May Foundation (Radebeul). In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, p. 549 ff.
  106. Imprint of the HP of the foundation
  107. ^ Jürgen Wehnert: The Karl May publishing house. In: G. Ueding: Karl May Handbook. 2001, p. 554 ff.
  108. ^ H. Wohlgschaft: Karl May - Life and Work. 2005, p. 1029.
  109. ^ Erich Heinemann: organs and perspectives of the Karl May research. In: G. Ueding: Karl-May-Handbuch pp. 559-564.
  110. ^ Articles of Association of the Karl May Society V. March 2, 2010.
  111. Dream Worlds I - Karl May Wiki. Retrieved June 9, 2020 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on February 18, 2007 .