A Discussion on Karl May’s Fictional American West

"Through Feb. 9, 2014, the New Mexico History Museum celebrates May’s life, legacy and lasting impact in 'Tall Tales of the Wild West: The Stories of Karl May.' "

Date April 5, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Author Editor

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Culture Education Lectures & Workshops

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“Karl May in America—Enthusiasm or Disappointment?”

A lecture by UNM Professor Emeritus Peter Karl Pabisch

German Studies Professor Emeritus Peter Karl Pabisch delivers the next lecture in support of the New Mexico History Museum exhibit "Tall Tales of the Wild West: The Stories of Karl May. "

“Karl May in America—Enthusiasm or Disappointment?” takes place at 6 pm on Friday, April 12 in the History Museum Auditorium. The event is free; museum admission is free on Fridays, 5-8 pm.

May became a beloved author in his native Germany and across Europe for his fictional depictions of an American West he never visited. (Though he did get as far as Buffalo, N.Y.) His two most famous characters, the Indian “Winnetou” and the trusty “Old Shatterhand,” fueled dozens of books and movies plus annual Karl May festivals that still enjoy popularity in Germany.

Through Feb. 9, 2014, the New Mexico History Museum celebrates May’s life, legacy and lasting impact in "Tall Tales of the Wild West: The Stories of Karl May." Curated by Tomas Jaehn, librarian of the museum’s Fray Angélico Chávez History Library (and another product of Germany), this small, original exhibition in the Mezzanine Gallery includes first-edition and foreign-language versions of May’s books, along with photographs illustrating his life. On loan from the Karl MayMuseum is Silberbüchse, Winnetou’s name for his rifle. May (rhymes with “my”) said he took the weapon from the Indian’s grave in Wyoming for safekeeping. In fact, the rifle was manufactured in Radebeul as a nonworking prop. Its visit to the exhibition will mark the first time it has been seen in the land where it was purportedly made.

A 10-minute excerpt from the Hollywood-like production Winnetou accompanies the exhibit in the museum’s Auditorium, and it shows how a French actor portrayed a Native America and how Croatia (part of the former Republic of Yugoslavia) played New Mexico. (American actor–and occasional Tarzan–Lex Barker played Old Shatterhand.)

The exhibit and lecture series are generously supported by the Herzstein Foundation, the German Consulate General in Houston and a grant from the New Mexico Humanities Council. 

The final lecture will be at 6 pm on Friday, June 14, when Michael Wala, professor of North American history at the University of Bochum in Germany, speaks on “Karl May’s Winnetous: Imagining the Noble Savage in 19th- and 20th-Century Germany.”

Image: Karl May as Old Shatterhand, ca. 1880. Photo courtesy Karl May Museum, Radebeul, Germany.

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