The Karl-May-Gesellschaft

Among untold others, Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer and Hermann Hesse professed their unbridled appreciation of Karl May’s work and their profound respect towards his achievements. Even so, and even with his sales – including translations into most European languages – over the years superseding those of any other German author, Karl May was surprisingly neglected as an object of study by scholars. Isolated instances of scholarly research – such as the German Heinz Stolte’s doctoral thesis in 1936 on Karl May’s merits as an author satisfying deep-seated popular needs in an exemplary manner or the Austrian Viktor Böhm’s doctoral thesis in 1955 which probed into May’s writings from an angle of narrative power – were of no avail.

It was not until the early 1970’s that Karl May’s name and books began invading German and non-German universities – a direct result of the founding of the KARL-MAY-GESELLSCHAFT (Karl May Society, abbreviated KMG), in March 1969, by Professor Dr. Claus Roxin, internationally renowned authority on Penal Law, and Professor Dr. Heinz Stolte, then a highly esteemed leading figure at the Hamburg, Germany, university, and a group of other earnest Karl May devotees. The Karl-May-Gesellschaft aims at a thorough, wide-ranged and deep-probing analysis of the author’s life and works. As a matter of fact, during the past decades he has stirred students‘ interests far more than have the established classical poets.

With close to 1500 members, in more than 20 different countries, the KMG ranks among the most widely spread and most prominent literary societies. In return of annual dues of (currently) 36 Euros, members receive a new ‚Jahrbuch‘ (Yearbook) every year (clothbound; 350-400 pp.), containing the latest scholarly reports and essays, plus quarterly ‚Mitteilungen‘ and ‚Nachrichten‘ (bulletin and newsletter; 60-80 pp.). Research is based strictly on May’s original texts as authorized by him during his lifetime, not on post-war over-simplified editions aimed predominantly at juveniles.

(Adaptations and abridged versions may be legitimately tolerated in our present-day reading world, as appealing to readers for pure entertainment, along with action-packed motion-picture adaptations of Karl May stories – featuring, for example, Stewart Granger, Lex Barker, Herbert Lom, Elke Sommer – or exciting open-air stage presentations; but all these naturally offer subjects of studies on their specific grounds only, and are not to be confused with genuine Karl May matter.)

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