Karl May's Imaginary America
"You see, Wagner and May, they both have a lot in common. They both come from Saxony, they were both inspired by the same scenery near Dresden and they are both myth-makers. Myth is the essence of the soul of a country, the secret of what makes it tick. Wagner articulated that on a higher plane. The genius of Karl May was to articulate that same myth, but for Everyman."
"Do you mean Karl May is the Richard Wagner of the masses?" I asked timidly.
The clouds parted! "Yes, I think that's it!" Sybeberg had finally managed to articulate what I'd only sensed, that the root of May's enduring appeal is as a myth-maker, basically retelling the age-old myths that are buried deep within the German psyche; the "Niebelungen", but in cowboy chaps and boots, set against a backcloth of Prairie and Rocky Mountain.
Now dissolve, as they say in the movies, in time and place to a grassy meadow in the little village of Hunsdorf, on the banks of the Rhine near Koblenz. The season: late Spring. The Time: the present. The Occasion: the annual meeting of the German Western Clubs. The Reason: my assumption that anybody who'd spend their free time dressing up as a Red Indian or a cowboy must also be deeply under the spell of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand.