Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Awaiting Resurrection After 70 years

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Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org
Once again a new year has begun and on its first day the writings of several authors have entered into the public domain. In Austria like in most (not all!!!) of Europe copyright protection expires seventy years after the writer’s death which is more than enough time for a name or book title to be completely forgotten by the public. Thanks to the continuing, even growing demand for free digitised books as well as to the efforts of committed readers and expert communities some hidden gems are rediscovered by and by… and resurrected to new, often first-time fame.

So whose works can we expect to find soon on Project Gutenberg, ManyBooks.net and the websites of other digital libraries dedicated to making public domain literature accessible for free?

Among the many names of authors who died in 1944 there is one that catches the eye at once: Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint Exupéry, better known simply as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The true fate of the man who wrote the charming novella The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) and lyrical books about flying like Night Flight (Vol de nuit), Wind, Sand and Stars / Terre des hommes and Flight to Arras (Pilote de guerre) is mysterious up to this day. He didn’t just die in World War II like so many others, but he disappeared during a reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean Sea. Only in 2000 the remains of his plane were found off the coast of Marseille. His officially recognised death for France has rather unpleasant consequences for French readers, though: his works remain copyrighted in France until the end of 2044!

Another name on the list of public domain authors that might ring a bell with you is Romain Rollond, the famous French dramatist, novellist and essayist who was awarded the 1915 Nobel Prize in Literature. His most famous works apart from his plays are his serial novels – Jean-Christophe (ten-volumes) and The Enchanted Soul (seven-volumes). He also wrote noted biographies of Beethoven, Michelangelo and Tolstoy. Two other Frenchmen whose work is now free of copyright are Jean Giraudoux and Jacques Boulenger. The first is best remembered today for his plays although he also wrote several novels which don’t seem to have been translated into English. The second was the brother of novelist Marcel Boulenger and along with his career as a critic he wrote some novels and tales still waiting for English translation.

Across the channel, in the U.K., Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch died in 1944. Early on in his career Sir Arthur made the letter Q. his pen name. He published several popular novels and tales set in Cornwall which were reprinted in the thirty volumes of Tales and Romances in 1928/29. I included the short story collection Two Sides of the Face. Midwinter Tales from 1903 in the long-list of My WINTER Books Special. For the rest he was a renowned professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge who brought out the famous Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900. Another British writer whose works are free of copyright now is Edward Owen Rutter (aka Klip-Klap). He probably is best remembered for his numerous travel books.

In 1944 the USA don’t seem to have suffered the loss of any internationally famous novellists. Of course there are several American writers new on the public domain list, but to be truthfully I have never heard of Irvin S. Cobb or Harold Bell Wright to name just two of them who have been bestselling authors in their time and enjoyed fame in Hollywood. Many of their stories were adapted for the screen starring actors like Cary Grant or Gary Cooper. Also the renown of the German-Hungarian writer Christa Winsloe whose work is no longer copyrighted was based on the screen adaptation. Her play Gestern und heute (Yesterday and Today) was such a success that it was made into a film twice under the better-known title Girls in Uniform (Mädchen in Uniform). Although she co-wrote the script, she didn’t like the turn that the director gave the 1931 film and subsequently made the story into the novel The Girl Manuela (Das Mädchen Manuela). The 1958 remake of the film is still well-remembered because Romy Schneider and Lilli Palmer played the leading parts.

Other German-language writers on the new public domain list are for instance Margarete Bruns, Joseph Dalman, Axel Rudolph (aka Heinrich Weiler), Hans Schiebelhuth, and Maria Scholz (aka Maria Stona), but they are quite forgotten even here in the German-speaking world and none of their works seems to be available in English. There are also two Austrian authors who died in 1944 and who deserve being mentioned here. One is Alice Gurschner, a poet, dramatist and novelist from Vienna who became known under her male pseudonym Paul Althof. The other is Hans Klöpfer, a physician and regional poet who still enjoys great renown in my closer neighbourhood because he wrote in our local dialect.

A noted author of children’s books now in the public domain is the Icelander Jón Stefán Sveinsson, better known as Nonni, whose series about the adventures of Nonni and Manni keeps being rather popular, notably in German-speaking countries.

It goes without saying that I picked only the most prominent names from the English Wikipedia list. Mind you, the table published there contains 1281 entries! I am looking forward to discovering some forgotten authors from it in coming years.

2 comments:

  1. I came here after reading your comment on the Japanese literature Challenge 8. How lovely to arrive at your blog! I can see that we have many similarities in our reading preferences; that we tend to read translated literature which is my favorite genre.

    St. Exupery is a well loved author by me; everyone knows of Le Petit Prince, but not many have read Night Flight. I even went so far as to purchase the perfume by Guerlain, Vol de Nuit, named for his book. So tragic about his death...

    As for Japanese literature, let's just continue reading and discussing it as we like. I am afraid I have not put much effort into this challenge, in it's eighth year, as I used to do. But, I will always read Japanese literature and be eager to discuss it.

    I would like to bring to your attention Tony's event called January in Japan. He runs a marvelous Japanese reading challenge, of sorts, throughout this month. I do not have time for both of his read alongs, but I plan on reading The Sound of The Mountain which will be discussed at the end of January. Here is the link to his event: http://januaryjapan.blogspot.com/

    So, here I've left an enormously long comment just to say, "Nice to meet you!" :) (And, my regular blog is here: dolcebellezza.net)

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    Replies
    1. Nice to meet you, too! Welcome to my blog!

      It's true that most people know The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, but haven't read any of his other works... I can't exclude myself there although I at least own a mint copy of Vol de nuit in German translation.

      As a matter of fact, I'm no fan at all of translations! Too much gets lost with a translator serving as a go-between. Only in December the German edition of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller proved it to me once more. It had none of the elegance of the Italian original which I read primarily taking the German translation only as a kind of a crutch. Whenever I can, I read the original, but this here is an English-language blog and I take great care to review only books that are available in an English edition (which I usually haven't set eyes on).

      Thanks for the link to Tony's Japanese reading challenge! I'm always happy to discover new and good book blogs. Unfortunately, my review schedule is full until the summer, so I won't get a chance to take part in this one either. I'm already curious to know what you have to say about The Sound of the Mountain. I would have loved to read and review it for My WINTER Books Special which is still running until the end of February. Alas, only the German edition - Ein Kirschbaum im Winter - has the word "winter" in its title...

      Thanks for your long comment - which got a long answer in return!

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