First Advisor

Steven N. Fuller

Term of Graduation

Summer 1995

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in German


Foreign Languages




Erich Kästner (1899-1974). 35 Mai



Physical Description

1 online resource (ii, 76 pages)


Der 35. Mai, Erich Kästner's least popular young people's book, has received only little attention by critical reviewers, and is seldom included in comparative studies that deal with the body of his early young people's literature. Due to the existence of only a few critical secondary sources and convincing studies showing the works unpopularity, this thesis wants to add new critical insights and give reasons for the failure of this particular book. Secondly, this examination will question the rather uncritically and quickly affixed label young people's literature that haunts Der 35. Mai until today.

This study reviews Kästner's biographic background until Der 35. Mai publishing date, summarizes its content, examines important social issues of the Weimar Republic, establishes national and international intertextuality highlighting Kästner's intent and sources, and finally speculates on the author's intentions and hopes for the book. This work wants to rediscover Der 35. Mai as valuable social criticism that fell victim to its historical circumstances. Many textual examples will show that the social issues addressed require a mature, adult audience, and rather than calling this work an artistic failure, this analysis attributes Kästner's mixing of social criticism and fantastic story line to his avant garde insights and pioneering intents for the German young people's literature genre.

A combination of Kästner's biography, close reading, and intertextual analysis reveals that Erich Kästner wrote a mixed-genre book, combining social criticism and fanciful narrative in a Neue Sachlichkeit language. Der 35. Mai is understood as the author's pedagogical intent to have parent and child interact and resolve intergenerational conflicts through enlightened discussions. By using the young people's literature genre as a vehicle, Kästner possibly tried to circumvent later censoring. Kästner's proposed dialogue for conflict resolution came, nevertheless, too late in 1932 and could not fully spread its enlightening message. Der 35. Mai had missed its historical moment and has since been forgotten as a sincere and clever attempt to help change the course of history.


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