A Salzburg Comedy

Thursday 8 May 2008

On the subject of book design, here’s something you don’t often see, a novel with colour illustrations, and it’s not a children’s story either. Erich Kästner’s A Salzburg Comedy is a light romantic tale, with beautiful pictures by his regular collaborator Walter Trier, eight interior paintings as well as the dust jacket image above.

The book was first published in Switzerland in 1938 at a time when Kästner was banned from publishing in Nazi Germany. Despite witnessing his books being burned by the Nazis, he’d chosen to stay in Germany, and remained there ’til the end of the war.

The English edition was first published in 1950. From Erich Kästner’s foreword:

When I was turning over in my mind this little book, during the Salzburg Festival of 1937, Austria and Germany were cut off from each other ‘for all time’ by boundary-posts, customs barriers, and separate issues of postage stamps. When, in 1938, my book was published, the two countries had just been united ‘for all time,’ with one common set of stamps and no dividing barriers of any sort. And so my book slipped hurriedly out of the country to avoid confiscation. Habent suafata libelli; in truth books have their own fates! Now, as my book is about to appear in a new edition, Germany and Austria are again separated ‘for all time.’ Again there are boundary posts, customs barriers and different issues of stamps. It seems to me that recent history is on the side of stamp-collectors rather than authors. And if that implies a mild reproach, it is directed against recent history and not against stamp collecting.

>For those curious about stamps from this time, there’s an interesting permanent exhibit in the British Library, by the café.

Also worth visiting: Harrie Verstappen’s Erich Kästner page.

More Walter Trier art online here, and a gallery of his covers for Lilliput magazine here. A nice book of his work for Lilliput and elsewhere is here, and a catalogue from the Art Gallery of Ontario is available here. The catalogue shows examples of his large collection of toys as well as his illustration work. An essay on Walter Trier and fellow illustrator Fritz Wegner by Gillian Lathey is online here as a PDF, and in printed and bound form in issue four of the Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, also on sale here.

Gillian Lathey also writes on Erich Kästner here.