Dedicated to those who wish to profit from my work.
By Karl May
Translated by: Dr. William E. Thomas M.D.
Edited by: Michael M. Michalak MACS
This horror never departed from me; it never set me free. It took hold of me and gnawed me to pieces. The very thought of the disgrace and the profound suffering of my poor parents and siblings penetrated my soul so deeply and destructively that it became dangerously ill. A sudden emotional (and by no means mental) depression took hold of me, from the depth of which emerged unfathomable and manic thoughts. I started to blame not myself, but others, the cunning cruel owner of the watch, the public prosecutor, the examining magistrate and all other people who were involved with my case. I plotted revenge, terrible revenge; something never before contemplated. This vengeance should consist of my becoming a real criminal in retribution for being tossed among criminals. I imagined that this would weigh heavily upon their conscience and in the end God would be forced to cast the entire despicable, mephitic band that made my family and me so miserable, into hell. A lay person would hardly believe such ideas are possible, but I knew that they are not only likely, but also quite real, since I experienced it!
At first I still comprehended that such broodings were pure lunacy. With fervent fear I struggled against them for months, not telling anyone about it, all in vain! My father and mother finally became aware of the state of my mind. They begged me tearfully, to take a hold of myself; but I did not have the power to resist. During my school years, our Priest had given me hundreds of little religious “tracts” and placed a lot of emphasis onto them. At the Teacher’s College I was drilled in the then customary self-righteous, rigid, unctuous and soundless schoolmasterish religiosity that provided the most fertile soil for my delusional ideas. This Phantom settled in, took root; it grew; it gained in strength. It whispered to me all the time: “Eternal damnation for the scoundrels, who accused you, sentenced you and turned you into a criminal! Become one! And the more audacious your crime, the greater shall be their eternal punishment!” Such were my thoughts, against which I struggled in vain for hundreds of days and nights. I was not yet ready for such a fateful blow; I was still young, too inexperienced, too weak, only nineteen years of age! Added to this, I was a son of not only material, but also of spiritual and emotional poverty! Insanity prevailed!
Years later I regained possession of my soul, not all at once, but only gradually. It returned in the same manner it had departed; namely via religion. During the last years of my imprisonment, I, a Lutheran, became an organ player at the Catholic religious services held in the Institution’s chapel. It was though the sound of the organ that I found my way back. And the noble, touching humanity and the psychological insight of the Institution’s Catholic Catechist supported my returned soul firmly, not in an attempt to win it for the Papacy but for pure humanitarian reasons. How extremely noble was this simple man’s practical psychology that saved my soul, compared to the torturous psychology of a certain Saxon public prosecutor, who forty years later publicly destroyed my soul and committed on me a literary, moral and physical murder, the unlawfulness of which cries to high heaven! It is because of this that the echoes of the organ’s sound emanate from the books I write. The sound is considered Catholic, despite it issuing from the natural register of a vox humana. When I was released, I had been cured, fully cured! Just by virtue of the organ’s sound and psychological insight of one man!
Since that difficult and dark time of suffering I firmly held onto my “soul”. I only occupy myself with it, and nothing else. I study it in every person I encounter and also in myself. I write books about it so that I might understand it better. I gave myself a difficult task, namely to write a monograph entitled “The Soul of Mankind”. That is why I venture forth and describe regions in the form of symbolic “Travel Narratives”, every one of which deals with an interesting realm of the “Soul of Mankind”. That people exist who can not, or will not, understand me is beyond my control; I do not pay them any heed.
Those who do not want to understand me, because I write contrary to their prejudices, accuse me of deifying my “Ego”. They call me pretentious and something even worse. Dear God! No person has so little reason and desire to boast, as I do! The “first person” style I write in, is after all not me, but the “question of humanity”, which I personify, so that I might answer it. In my books I identify myself with mankind, which is suffering as I have suffered: Humanity has lost its soul; consequently its spirit commits fallacies that can not be corrected until the lost soul is found again. Everyone speaks about the mind. Everything is permissible nowadays, particularly in literature. But even the biggest and clearest mind has completely lost its soul, so that it can no longer be defined.
Literature therefore needs a man who can think in simple terms, who employs no artificial devices in his books, and who can actively seek the lost soul so that it can be brought back to mankind. Such an ordinary man who renounces all personal glory, and whose task it is to endure and shoulder all renunciation, such a man am I. The path I pursue brings only heartache. I have walked it. I descended into the abyss and have experienced it. And ever since I ascended from it, I also experienced mankind’s agony up here. For when the lowly speak of those above they do not look up but rather drag them down to their level. A certain clique emerged from the Mü nchmeyer trial, which gave itself the task to deny any deeper meaning contained in my books so that they might accuse me of lies and swindle. Because of some lofty connections it was possible to deceive even those with moral sensibilities. And then there is the milieu that is covered by the content of my books. Whilst I lead my readers through the realm of the mankind’s soul, I give to its regions known geographical names. This makes comprehension much easier, however it provides the malicious cause to malign me. When I, for example, locate the realm of art to India for the sake of illustration, and the realm of religious intolerance to Belutschistan, without delay these unimaginative people deem that I truly visited India and Belutschistan. If not, than I am a literary liar and swindler. Accordingly Dante would have been the biggest swindler of all, since he claimed to not only have visited purgatory and hell, but also heaven!
I can not possibly be disheartened if ordinary people judge me in this manner. But when I realize from the “psychological” and “literary” blows of my public prosecutor, that such lunacies have also crept into the halls of government, I begin to understand the real reason for my not being able to leave my past behind. It is not this past itself that clings to my feet like lead, rather it is the utter ignorance of my ideals, my ways and my goals, my completely new, enigmatic style and manner. Therein lies the real reason for the obstacles that confront me and the naysayers arise to oppose me whilst others would find protection and help. Thus there is nothing left for me but to renounce the present, and hope that understanding will finally come beyond this life.
I shall not conceal from the world that I am an ex-convict. I have to deal with that until I die. No police scrutiny shall accompany me on my way from this temporal prison into my eternal freedom. I am writing down this full confession, openly, honestly and without duress, otherwise it would be worthless. Right now I am working on my biography. Daily I sit on my confessional bench. However when Mü nchmeyer, Gerlach and company preemptively strike with their lies and spitefulness at my confession in order to falsify it and to turn my earnest, literary form into a caricature, against that I have to defend myself!
Radebeul, 28th May 1908.
Signed: Karl May