Literary Adaptations

Klassiche Literatur transformiert: Video on the increasing popularity of graphic Literary Adaptations

On this page:

  • Alte Meister
  • Cargo (contains a comic version of Paul Celan’s “Todesfuge”)
  • Emil und die Detektive
  • Fräulein Else
  • Das Fräulein von Scuderi
  • Dri Chinisin
  • Reigen

Mahler, Nicolas and Thomas Bernhard.  Alte Meister. Suhrkamp, 2011.

ISBN 13:978-3518462935

A graphic novel version of Bernhard’s novel of the same name.  In the Viennese art history museum, the music philosopher Reger sits every other morning on the bench opposite Tintoretto’s “White Bearded Man.” One day, he breaks this routine by asking his friend Atzbacher to  join him. Before the reason for this change is given, Reger flies into a tirade, against art in general, artists, and curses Vienna and the Viennese.

The drawings are very simply done with very few colors.  The text often provides comically stylized versions of famous works of art.  Despite this simplistic look, the text is typically Bernhard in its complexity.  Not only would this text be a nice supplement to a traditional literature course, but its format could also open up discussions about classic art versus comic art.

Meister coverMeister sample

E for everyoneThe subject matter contains nothing questionable, but the advanced level of language makes this novel suitable for upper level literature or culture courses.

Dinter, Tim.  Cargo. Avant, 2005.

ISBN 13: 978-3980942874

Cargo offers a series of reportages commemorating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.

In a kind of “journalistic exchange” comic artists from each of the two countries visited the other one and used their experiences to establish and maintain cultural dialogue.

Because this is an anthology, it contains a number of different topics dealing with the broader theme and also as many different styles of artwork.

From the foreword: “Schön ist es auch, dass jede Geschichte als Comic erzählt werden kann.”

Cargo cover

Especially interesting for German instructors is a graphic novel rendition of Paul Celan’s “Todesfuge” called “Schwarze Milch” by Yirmi Pinkus.   This graphic text would work as an effective complement when working with Celan’s original.  The instructor could supplement conventional instruction with method of teaching literature using techniques of visual literacy and pictorial interpretation.

schwarze milch

teenVery little questionable material.  Reading the stories may require the instructor to provide some historical background.

Kreitz, Isabel. Emil und die Detektive.  Hamburg: Dressler Verlag, 2012.

ISBN-13: 978-3-7915-1168-9

Sample Text:  From the first page: “…Euch kann ich’s ja ruhig sagen! Die Sache mit Emil kam mir selber unerwartet… Eigentlich hatte ich ein ganz anderes Buch schreiben wollen..Einen richtigen Südsee-Roman hatte ich vor, weil mir mal ein Herr mit einem grossen Umhängebart erzählt hat, so würdet ihr am liebsten lesen.. aber der Oberkellner Nietenführ, mit dem ich manchmal über meine Arbeit spreche, war ganz anderer Ansicht!”

Isabel Kreitz has created a visually rich interpretation of Kästner’s work. As is evident from the above sample text, Kreitz’s text does not follow the original exactly.  Instructors could certainly incorporate the text either as visual support for students after they have read or while they read the original, or for evidence in  a study of literary adaptation.

It could be argued that the graphic novel version, with its variations on the original text, at times takes away from the original. For example, in the first scene “Emil hilft Köpfe waschen,” the original text includes the exchange: “Ist es nicht zu heiss?” “Nein, es geht,” antwortete der Kopf. This reduction of the woman having her hair done to a head creates a vivid visual image and perhaps says something about Emil’s perspective or the perspective of the hairdresser. In the graphic novel, that aspect is changed.  Nonetheless, the novel offers so much in the way of supplementary illustration for use alongside the original, or even with film versions in a study of media types.

97837915116891-e1340360163440Old pics3 3

E for everyone

Fior, Manuele and Arthur Schnitzler. Fräulein Else. Süddeutsche Zeitung / Bibliothek, 2012.

ISBN 13: 978-3864970085

A graphic novel version of Schnitzler’s classic novel.  Like the original, it thematizes the constraints of the bourgeois society and also the advent of World War I.  This book also won the Großen Preis der Stadt Genf 2009.


Else coverelse sample

rating pending

Kardinar, Alexander, ETA Hoffmann.  Das Fräulein von Scuderi. Edition Büchergilde, 2011.

ISBN 13: 978-3940111838

An adaptation of ETA Hoffmann’s original, which is often seen as the first crime novella or the Ur-crime story of world literature.

The graphic novel features strikingly bright pictures in exaggerated comic form.  The layouts and fonts convey a chaotic scrapbook-like look that combine old material with a new presentation characterized by classic art, comic art and pop art.  The graphic novelist has also interspersed pages that make use of a modern pictogram style to tell parts of the story.

The book contains both the original Hoffmann text and the graphic version.

Fräulein coverdas_fraeulein_scuderi sample

This version of Hoffmann’s text inspired a scholarly essay that questions the purpose of graphic novel adaptations. Should they make the original texts more accessible or are they really just creative interpretations of the originals?äulein/dp/365631442X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1359153596&sr=8-2

everyone 10

Hommer, Sascha and Barbara Kronauer.  Dri Chinisin. Reprodukt, 2011. 

ISBN 13: 978-3941099739

Hommer translates 6 short stories by award winning author Kronauer into abstract and geometrical pictures. Topics include dream worlds and melancholy.  Critics have lauded Hommer for being able to render abstract themes in equally abstract pictures.

Many of the stories provide a close picture text match which could aid understanding and comprehension of the complex literary texts.

Stories included: “Ein Tag, der zuletzt doch nicht im Sande verlief,” “Frau John kommt,” “Dri Chinesin,” “Ende für einen Anfang,” “Samstagabend,” “Die hohen Berge.”

A Series of Reviews

dri chi coverdri chi sample

E for everyoneNo questionable content, but students would need extra activities to support working with literary texts.  This novel would act as a great complement to reading the original short stories and could offer ideas for points of comparison  between the literary and the visual.

Weyke, Birgit.  Reigen.  Avant, 2011. 

ISBN 13:978-3939080572

A golden baptismal chain moved around to different owners links the stories of 10 people over the span of a century They encounter each other in pairs, as the title suggests (refers to a type of pairs dance).  Arthur Schnitzler also used this structural principle in his story of the same name.

The story is divided into 10 chapters, which expands the options in the classroom.  For example, the instructor could have different groups of students read one of the stories. Then students could retell/present their stories and the class could decide how all ten of the stories fit together.

Sample Text:  from the beginning of the first story.  Marie Boivin ist Kanadierin und lebt im frankophonen Teil Montreals. Da sie aus finer ehemals wohlhabenden Familie stammt, ist sie materiell abgesichert. Sie ist Witwe und hat zwei erwachsene Tochter.   

All ten of the stories consist mostly of dialogues and so also offer a lot of conversational everyday vocabulary that students can always use to build proficiency.

reigen coverreigen sample

E for everyone

2 thoughts on “Literary Adaptations

    • Thanks so much! I have another shipment coming into KU’s Rohrbach library any day now. I’ll add more entries after they arrive.

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