The File on… Karl May

No German writer has probably been read by more people than Karl May, and to this day he remains one of Germany’s favourite writers of books for young people. In an easy-to-follow manner Nina Schindler traces Karl May’s development. She tells us what made him think of becoming a writer in the first place, and what was the secret of his success.

He came from very humble origins, but his head was full of ideas. Since he was a good pupil he could work his way up to becoming an assistant teacher, a poorly paid job for all that. But young Karl had set his sights higher, and wanted to taste life in all its glory. He embarked on a course of small-scale cheating which ultimately did him little good – it earned him spell in prison. But such a little mishap wouldn’t make Karl give up. Nothing daunted, he kept on dreaming of distant lands and a life of adventure. He put pen to paper and soon found out that people lapped up the kind of yarn he kept turning out. He became a writer, and, what’s more, a successful one. Maybe one reason for his success was the fact that he himself had lost track of the distinction between what was real and what was only happening in his imagination. Nor did he really want to make that distinction: Old Shatterhand, that was him, and so was Kara Ben Nemsi! There were people reluctant to believe him, and they kept giving him a hard time. But to millions of young readers, he was a hero. And that certainly did him good, after all that he’d been through.

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Wer war Karl May?

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Nina Schindler

Born in 1946, Nina Schindler worked for a number of years as a teacher at a comprehensive school. In the early nineties she gave up her teaching job in order to concentrate on writing. She has since written numerous books for children and adults alike, as well as translating many English and French books into German. She lives in Bremen with her big family.

Stefanie Roth

Born in Dresden in 1969, Stefanie Roth studied illustration and graphic arts in Prague and communication design at Berlin-Weißensee’s Kunsthochschule, attending Professor Volker Pfüller’s master class. She has been freelancing as a graphic designer, illustrator and designer of books since 1997. She’s also headed the faculty of graphic design at Schwerin’s Design Schule since 2008.

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