Saturday, March 31, 2012

Germany's Best-Loved Cowboy: The Fantastical World of Cult Novelist Karl May - SPIEGEL ONLINE

The pit falls of foreign travel,

Only once did he actually visit those wild, faraway countries where he had so fearlessly traveled from the safety of his desk. In April 1899, Karl May took a ship from Genoa to Port Said in Egypt, aiming to finally see the Orient. He had 50,000 marks, a tremendous amount of money at the time, to spend on lodgings for himself and his valet. He was 57, one of Germany's most famous authors and a rich man.

The trip was a disaster. May couldn't tolerate the foreign food, and he was distressed by the stench, the noise and ubiquitous filth. Everything went straight to his stomach and his head. And then there were the tourists combing the sights of Cairo with their Baedeker travel books, "tightly clutching the red guide," as the author grumbled.

But he stuck it out, traveling from Egypt to Ceylon and Sumatra, as if to retroactively walk in the steps of someone he had only pretended to be in the past: an adventurer and globetrotter. When May returned to his native Saxony, after 16 months and two nervous breakdowns, he vowed not to embark on another adventure anytime soon. America, the other land of adventure he portrayed in his books, would have to wait.

Germany's Best-Loved Cowboy: The Fantastical World of Cult Novelist Karl May - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

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