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A Salzburg Comedy by Erich Kästner
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A Salzburg Comedy (1938)

by Erich Kästner

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Originally published as Georg und die Zwischenfälle in 1937, Der kleine Grenzverkehr by Erich Kästner is a light, somewhat predictable story. Part of the story is autobiographical.

Kunst und Wirklichkeit, Theater und Leben: überall sonst sind's zwei getrennte Sphären. Hier bilden beide ein unlösbar Ganzes. (p.86)

Art and reality, theatre and life: everywhere else they're two divided realms. Here they form an inseparable union. Perhaps that's why happiness resides here?

Role-play, and the inversion of reality and theatre, plays an important role in this short novel.

A young unknown author, Georg, from Berlin wants to visit the Salzburg Festival, but does not have enough money (in foreign currency) to stay in Salzburg. He solves this problem by staying in a hotel in Bavaria, and crossing the border every morning and evening, and half-hour bus ride to-and-fro Salzburg. His expenses are covered by a friend, named Karl. One day Karl does not show up, and Georg cannot pay for his bill. He is saved by Konstanze, who pays for his coffee. Konstanze is a parlour maid, and Georg falls in love with her.

A few days later Karl spots Konstanze with another man in the casino, and overheard them addressing each other as count and countess. Georg feels deceived and disappears to his hotel in Bavaria. He is visited there by Konstanze's brother, who explains that indeed they are nobility but that Konstanze introduced herself as a parlour maid because this is part of a hoax they are playing with all members of their family that summer. Their father, who is an amateur playwright, has sublet the manor to an American family who has been told the family has travelled elsewhere. However, the family has taken over the role of the household staff, which the father hopes will inspire him to write a play. To go on seeing Konstanze, Georg must enter the play... Futher developments in the story occur within this framework, comic and melodramatic.

When the Nazis seized power in 1933, Erich Kästner did not emigrate, but chose to stay in Germany. The Nazis forbade circulation of his books within Germany, but his books were published as they brought in foreign currency. In fact, his works were so popular that Goebbels allowed him to publish and write film scripts for the German public under a pseudonym. However, when Hitler discovered who he was, all further publications were completely banned.

The autobiographical part of the story consists of the basic idea of a writer who cannot reside in Salzburg, and instead commutes between a hotel in Bavaria and Salzburg, while relying on a friend to cover his expenses. Kästner had done that himself in the summer of 1937. However, when the book was published the following year, Austria was already incorporated into the German Reich. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Jul 28, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kästner, ErichAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jong-Belinfante, R. deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trier, WalterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woude, Johan van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Karl hat mir aus London geschrieben und fragt, ob ich ihn Mitte August in Salzburg treffen will.
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