Literary Adaptations

Klassiche Literatur transformiert: Video on the increasing popularity of graphic Literary Adaptations

Abbreviated Entries on this page:

  • Faust: Der Tragödie erster Teil
  • Der Schimmelreiter
  • Der Sandmann
  • Marquise von O
  • Mann ohne Eigenschaften
  • Traumnovelle
  • Der Prozess
  • Judenbuche
  • Grimms Märchen ohne Worte

Longer Entries on this page:

  • Alice in Sussex
  • Alte Meister
  • Cargo (contains a comic version of Paul Celan’s “Todesfuge”)
  • Emil und die Detektive
  • Huck Finn 
  • Im Westen Nichts Neues
  • Das Inferno 
  • Fräulein Else
  • Das Fräulein von Scuderi
  • Dri Chinisin
  • Reigen

Abbreviated Entries on this page:

Flix.  Faust: der Tragödie erster Teil. Carlsen, 2010. 

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video sat 3

Natter, Jens. Der Schimmelreiter. Boyens, 2014.

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Grosso, Ciponte, Andrea and Dacia Palmerino. Der Sandmann. Edition Faust, 2014.

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Book Trailer

Grosso Ciponte, Andrea and Dacia Palmerino. Marquise von O. Edition Faust, 2015. 

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Book Trailer

Mahler, Nicolas nach Robert Musil. Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. Suhrkamp, 2013. 

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Beyond Pixels Review

Hinrichs, Jakob nach Arthur Schnitzler. Traumnovelle. Edition Büchergilde, 2012. 

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Andreas Platthaus faz review

Mairowitz, David Zane and Chantal Montellier. Der Process von Franz Kafka. Knesebeck, 2013. 

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Kafka in Komiks video

Ahlering, Claudia and Julian Voloj. Judenbuche.

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WDR 3 Video

Flöthmann, Franz. Grimms Märchen ohne Worte. DuMont Buchverlag, 2017. 

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ardmediathek Interview with the artist

Mahler, Nicolas frei nach Lewis Carroll und H.C. Artmann. Alice in Sussex. Suhrkamp, 2013.

ISBN 13:978-3518463864

In this graphic novel, Mahler combines Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Frankenstein in Sussex. Although the material would be much too difficult for most undergraduate students (and they would also need an excellent grasp of the two stories on which it is based), this graphic novel offers a lot of individual pages that instructors could use to teach “how to read comics” using the familiar Alice in Wonderland iconography.


Mahler, Nicolas and Thomas Bernhard.  Alte Meister. Suhrkamp, 2011.

ISBN 13:978-3518462935

A graphic novel version of Bernhard’s novel of the same name.  In the Viennese art history museum, the music philosopher Reger sits every other morning on the bench opposite Tintoretto’s “White Bearded Man.” One day, he breaks this routine by asking his friend Atzbacher to  join him. Before the reason for this change is given, Reger flies into a tirade, against art in general, artists, and curses Vienna and the Viennese.

The drawings are very simply done with very few colors.  The text often provides comically stylized versions of famous works of art.  Despite this simplistic look, the text is typically Bernhard in its complexity.  Not only would this text be a nice supplement to a traditional literature course, but its format could also open up discussions about classic art versus comic art.

Meister coverMeister sample

E for everyoneThe subject matter contains nothing questionable, but the advanced level of language makes this novel suitable for upper level literature or culture courses.

Dinter, Tim.  Cargo. Avant, 2005.

ISBN 13: 978-3980942874

Cargo offers a series of reportages commemorating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.

In a kind of “journalistic exchange” comic artists from each of the two countries visited the other one and used their experiences to establish and maintain cultural dialogue.

Because this is an anthology, it contains a number of different topics dealing with the broader theme and also as many different styles of artwork.

From the foreword: “Schön ist es auch, dass jede Geschichte als Comic erzählt werden kann.”

Cargo cover

Especially interesting for German instructors is a graphic novel rendition of Paul Celan’s “Todesfuge” called “Schwarze Milch” by Yirmi Pinkus.   This graphic text would work as an effective complement when working with Celan’s original.  The instructor could supplement conventional instruction with method of teaching literature using techniques of visual literacy and pictorial interpretation.

schwarze milch

teenVery little questionable material.  Reading the stories may require the instructor to provide some historical background.

Kreitz, Isabel. Emil und die Detektive.  Hamburg: Dressler Verlag, 2012.

ISBN-13: 978-3-7915-1168-9

Sample Text:  From the first page: “…Euch kann ich’s ja ruhig sagen! Die Sache mit Emil kam mir selber unerwartet… Eigentlich hatte ich ein ganz anderes Buch schreiben wollen..Einen richtigen Südsee-Roman hatte ich vor, weil mir mal ein Herr mit einem grossen Umhängebart erzählt hat, so würdet ihr am liebsten lesen.. aber der Oberkellner Nietenführ, mit dem ich manchmal über meine Arbeit spreche, war ganz anderer Ansicht!”

Isabel Kreitz has created a visually rich interpretation of Kästner’s work. As is evident from the above sample text, Kreitz’s text does not follow the original exactly.  Instructors could certainly incorporate the text either as visual support for students after they have read or while they read the original, or for evidence in  a study of literary adaptation.

It could be argued that the graphic novel version, with its variations on the original text, at times takes away from the original. For example, in the first scene “Emil hilft Köpfe waschen,” the original text includes the exchange: “Ist es nicht zu heiss?” “Nein, es geht,” antwortete der Kopf. This reduction of the woman having her hair done to a head creates a vivid visual image and perhaps says something about Emil’s perspective or the perspective of the hairdresser. In the graphic novel, that aspect is changed.  Nonetheless, the novel offers so much in the way of supplementary illustration for use alongside the original, or even with film versions in a study of media types.

97837915116891-e1340360163440Old pics3 3

E for everyone

 Olivia Vieweg nach Mark Twain. Huck Finn Die Graphic Novel, Suhrkamp, 2013, 142 pages.

ISBN: 978-518-46429-8. 

Sample Text: First two pages:

Tom: Finn? Hey! Finn, was geht ‘n? Hörst du schlecht? Willste noch ‘n Bier?

Huck: Nö danke, Tom.

Tom: Die Jungs und ich haben beschlossen, eine Bande zu gründen. 

Huck: Eine Bande? 

Tom: Wir machen von hier oben Jagd auf die Menschen da unten. Wir halten Ausschau nach denen, die aussehen, als ob sie genug Kohle hätten…  …dann werfen wir Flaschen oder meinetwegen Steine runter… …wenn es ihnen den Schädel gespalten hat… … steht Joschka unten und hält Wache. Er nimmt sie aus wie ein paar Kindergarten Kinder! 

Huck: Mann, Tom! Du hast immer noch die besten Ideen. Da kann man nix sagen!


Vieweg presents an adaptation of the American classic, but with little resemblance to the original. The story takes place in modern-day Halle. Huck is part of a wild groups of youths who freely drink and use drugs.  His adventures end up taking him down the river with a young girl being held as a prostitute. The story acquires its sense of suspense as young prostitute’s John offers a reward for anyone who can recover her.  The last line of the book emphasizes the modern time period, and the wildness that defines the book: “Ja, Tom. Ich bin wieder im Land. Schick mir ‘ne SMS, wenn du hit den Jungs was unternimmst. Und halt einen Extra-Platz frei. Ich bring ‘ne Lady mit.”

The three color scheme effectively transmits the mood of urgency and adventure throughout. The adaptation offers a wonderful source against which to read Mark Twain’s classic and/or to discuss theories and techniques of adaptation.



Eickmeyer, Peter. Im Westen Nichts Neues. Splitter, 2014 .

ISBN 13: 978-3-86869-679-0

With his impressive full page pictures that have the distinct look of landscape art, Eickmeyer has produced this adaptation of the classic novel. He does not use the Remarque’s original full text, but has nonetheless enhanced the original with his illustrations. Because of its format that features blocks of texts  overlaid on the painting-like visuals, the books has received criticism for simply being an illustrated version of the novel and not a graphic novel. Even if that’s the case, the illustrations are impressive enough to stand on their own and to  be objects of study for artistic style, as well as responses to and replications of other examples of war art, such as Guernica and pieces by Otto Dix.


Meier, Michael. Das Inferno. Rotopol, 2011, 136 pages.

ISBN: 978-3940304353.

Sample Text: First page: Brüder! Lobt die Sommerzeit! Ja, dich, Sommer, will ich loben! Wer nur deine Munterkeit… 

Ich gehe noch kaputt bei dieser Scheissheitze! Na toll! Ich habe keine Ahnung, wo ich bin! Vielleicht sollte ich einfach wieder zurückgehen. Ich habs mir anders überlegt! Vielleicht kann ich mir von diesem Felsen aus einen Überblick verschaffen.” 


From Rotopol press:   In his Divine Comedy, Dante portrays a horrific journey into the afterworld. As Virgil guided Dante and Dante guided his readers, so Michael Meier leads his readers on an underworld safari in his latest comic book. Das Inferno ripples throughout with dark humor.


Michael Meier remains faithful to the spirit of Dante while conjuring his own vision of the Inferno. Das Inferno links classical notions of hell with contemporary imagery to reflect our notions of the hereafter. Meier’s undershirt-clad Dante shows us that the Divine Comedy is still up-to-date even 700 years after its creation. Meier infuses the “punishment fantasies” Dante imagined in the afterlife with 21st Century anxieties, musing on the comparison between the divinely created hell and the hell mankind has created for itself. Stinging with social criticism, Das Inferno comes across as a contemporary rendering full of surprise and wit. For those familiar with the Dante’s original as well as those descending for the first time, Das Inferno is fun as hell!

Fünf Fragen für Michael Meier



Fior, Manuele and Arthur Schnitzler. Fräulein Else. Süddeutsche Zeitung / Bibliothek, 2012.

ISBN 13: 978-3864970085

A graphic novel version of Schnitzler’s classic novel.  Like the original, it thematizes the constraints of the bourgeois society and also the advent of World War I.  This book also won the Großen Preis der Stadt Genf 2009.


Else coverelse sample

rating pending

Kardinar, Alexander, ETA Hoffmann.  Das Fräulein von Scuderi. Edition Büchergilde, 2011.

ISBN 13: 978-3940111838

An adaptation of ETA Hoffmann’s original, which is often seen as the first crime novella or the Ur-crime story of world literature.

The graphic novel features strikingly bright pictures in exaggerated comic form.  The layouts and fonts convey a chaotic scrapbook-like look that combine old material with a new presentation characterized by classic art, comic art and pop art.  The graphic novelist has also interspersed pages that make use of a modern pictogram style to tell parts of the story.

The book contains both the original Hoffmann text and the graphic version.

Fräulein coverdas_fraeulein_scuderi sample

This version of Hoffmann’s text inspired a scholarly essay that questions the purpose of graphic novel adaptations. Should they make the original texts more accessible or are they really just creative interpretations of the originals?äulein/dp/365631442X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1359153596&sr=8-2

everyone 10

Hommer, Sascha and Barbara Kronauer.  Dri Chinisin. Reprodukt, 2011. 

ISBN 13: 978-3941099739

Hommer translates 6 short stories by award winning author Kronauer into abstract and geometrical pictures. Topics include dream worlds and melancholy.  Critics have lauded Hommer for being able to render abstract themes in equally abstract pictures.

Many of the stories provide a close picture text match which could aid understanding and comprehension of the complex literary texts.

Stories included: “Ein Tag, der zuletzt doch nicht im Sande verlief,” “Frau John kommt,” “Dri Chinesin,” “Ende für einen Anfang,” “Samstagabend,” “Die hohen Berge.”

A Series of Reviews

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E for everyoneNo questionable content, but students would need extra activities to support working with literary texts.  This novel would act as a great complement to reading the original short stories and could offer ideas for points of comparison  between the literary and the visual.

Weyke, Birgit.  Reigen.  Avant, 2011. 

ISBN 13:978-3939080572

A golden baptismal chain moved around to different owners links the stories of 10 people over the span of a century They encounter each other in pairs, as the title suggests (refers to a type of pairs dance).  Arthur Schnitzler also used this structural principle in his story of the same name.

The story is divided into 10 chapters, which expands the options in the classroom.  For example, the instructor could have different groups of students read one of the stories. Then students could retell/present their stories and the class could decide how all ten of the stories fit together.

Sample Text:  from the beginning of the first story.  Marie Boivin ist Kanadierin und lebt im frankophonen Teil Montreals. Da sie aus finer ehemals wohlhabenden Familie stammt, ist sie materiell abgesichert. Sie ist Witwe und hat zwei erwachsene Tochter.   

All ten of the stories consist mostly of dialogues and so also offer a lot of conversational everyday vocabulary that students can always use to build proficiency.

reigen coverreigen sample

E for everyone

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