News from the German Literary Scene

“Books are Friends that always have Time for Us” – On the Death of Otfried Preußler (02/21/2013)

Otfried Preußler © Carlsen VerlagThe children’s book author Otfried Preußler died on 18 February 2013 in Prien am Chiemsee. He was 89 years old.

Otfried Preußler © Carlsen Verlag

Krabat, The Little Witch (Die kleine Hexe), or The Robber Hotzenplotz (Der Räuber Hotzenplotz) – who has never heard of these works by Otfried Preußler? Translated into more than 50 languages, award-winning works that have sold more than 50 million times, they are famous and beloved children’s classics. They were last present in the media when the elimination of controversial words such as Negerlein (i.e. little black fellow) was at issue, in order to render them ageless for coming generations as well.

Now their author has died and not only the literary world is in mourning. “Both children and adults loved him and his books, that won’t change,” says Minister of Cultural and Media Affairs Bernd Neumann. “We shall still gladly let ourselves be enchanted by his stories.”

Preußler, born in 1923 in Reichenberg in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), wrote his first stories when he was 12 years old. Even after five years of Russian captivity from 1944 – 1949, he never gave up his wish to become a writer, and built up a livelihood in Rosenheim in Upper Bavaria. His first literary success came in 1956 with The Little Water-Sprite (Der kleine Wassermann). With Krabat in 1971, he focused on young people, to show them the meaning of friendship and the courage of one’s convictions. Paul Maar, the inventor of “Sams,” describes the sombre tale of the sorcerer’s apprentice Krabat “a masterpiece of its genre.”

Preußler himself said of his work: “I’ve come to the conviction that children are the best and smartest audience that one can possibly wish for.” He wanted to burden his little readers with problems from the world of adults only as late as possible – he saw his role in encouraging their imagination and in giving them strength and confidence in the future.

dpa/Katrin Baumer

Translation: Edith C. Watts
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
February 2013

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