Thursday, July 5, 2007

Some interesting books

One of the books I recently received via inter-library loan is The German Bestseller in the 20th Century: A Complete Bibliography and Analysis 1915-1940, by Donald Ray Richards. This 1968 book does NOT make for interesting reading, as it is mainly composed of charts and listings. I borrowed the book on a hunch. I wanted to find out if Margarete Bohme's novel, The Diary of a Lost One, was really a "bestseller" - as it is sometimes described. Bohme's book - now little known to American readers - was the basis for the 1929 Louise Brooks' film, The Diary of a Lost Girl.

Well, as it turns out, it was a big, big seller. The book was first published in 1905. And, if I understand Donald Ray Richards' analysis correctly, by 1931 Bohme's book had sold an astounding 563,000 copies. How does that compare to other titles? Bohme's sales placed it among the top 15 selling books for the period between 1915 and 1940. The bestseller for the period was Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks, which sold more than 1,300,000 copies in about as many years. And seemingly, Erich Marie Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front sold more than 900,000 copies in one year's time. Remarque's anti-war novel, which was also made into a film, placed third.

It would be interesting to know if Pabst's 1929 film helped boost sales of Bohme's book? I also wonder if there was any sort of movie tie-in edition issued in Germany or Austria . . . .

Late last year and earlier into this year, I had searched the online used book market in hopes of acquiring just such an edition. But no luck. However, I did acquire a number of other interesting editions including an illustrated copy, a dramatization, and a rare parody of Bohme's book.

A couple of other interesting books I borrowed were two by Christa Winsloe, The Child Manuela and Girls in Uniform. If these titles sound somewhat familiar, they should. Each served as the basis for Madchen in Uniform, the extraordinary and provocative 1931 German film about a sensitive girl sent to an all-girls boarding school who develops a romantic attachment to one of her female teachers. IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS FILM - GO OUT AND RENT IT IMMEDIATELY. IT IS REALLY EXCELLENT - AND SOMEWHAT THEMATICALLY REMINISCENT OF DIARY OF A LOST GIRL. The Wikipedia entry on the film has lots of interesting background information.

I wasn't sure about the exact relationship of the two books to the film. What I found out is that Girls in Uniform is a play in three acts. And, according to the title page, it was "Adapted from the German Play Gestern und Heaute Upon Which the Film Madchen in Uniform Is Based."Girls in Uniform was published in English translation in the United States in 1933. The Child Manuela, which is a novel, was also published  in English translation. According to a publisher's note found in that book, "The author of the play Children in Uniform and the film Maedchen in Uniform originally conceived the story as a novel and so wrote it. The novel, here published for the first time, tells in detail the story of the child Manuela and her family before she left to go to the school which was the setting of both the motion picture and the play."

I am looking forward to reading the play sometime soon.

Has anyone who might read this blog ever seen Madchen in Uniform?

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