Bernhard Kellermann

Bernhard_Kellermann_1949Bernhard Kellermann (1879-1951) was born in Fürst in Bavaria, and in 1899 he entered the Technical University in Munich, studying German literature and art. He started publishing novels in 1904, with Yester und Li, and by 1914 had achieved considerable success. His most successful work was Der Tunnel (1913), which was his main science fiction achievement. It was translated into 25 languages, and made into a movie twice in Germany (1915 and 1933), and once in English (1935).

The Tunnel was published in English by Hodder and Stoughton (London, New York, Toronto) in 1915. It is the story of the building of a transatlantic railway tunnel from the New Jersey shore to the coast of France, touching Bermuda, the Azores and the North of Spain (thus allowing five entrance points for travellers). It would be three thousand miles long, far longer than the Calais-Dover Tunnel (near completion in this future world) and the Behring Straits Tunnel. The novel is the story of the whole enterprise, from the initial pitch by Mac Allan to the financiers, via a disaster where thousands died (and Mac Allan’s wife and child were killed by a mob, furious at the deaths of the workers) through to Allan’s final successful trip through the tunnel, 24 years after the launch of the project. The dates are not specified; but it would appear to start no later than the middle of the twentieth century: in a world untouched, of course, by world war. There are German engineers involved, but it is on the whole a book about the potential of American capitalism.

After the war, in which Kellermann was a journalist, Der 9. November (1920) appeared (published as by Bernard Kellermann as The Ninth of November by Jonathan Cape in London, 1925). 9 November, has, since the Second World War, sometimes been called Schicksalstag (Destiny Day), because of its importance in German history: the execution of Robert Blum after the 1948 Revolution, the simultaneous proclamation of the Weimar Republic and the Socialist Republic of Germany in 1918, the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, the Kristallnacht attack on the Newish community in 1938, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, are all associated with 9 November. Kellermann’s book was of course about the November Revolution in 1918. It contained criticism of the militarism of German society, and criticism of the conduct of the War. The Nazi regime burned this book publicly, and banned it.

Although by then Kellermann had established his reputation as a leading writer, he could no longer get anything published but dime novels until after 1945. He did continue to live in Germany, however, and after the Second World War had a brief political career in East Germany—which ensured that he was little remembered in West Germany. He died in 1951, and was buried in Potsdam.


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