|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.