|About the Book|
Friedrich Gerstäcker (May 10, 1816, Hamburg - May 31, 1872, Braunschweig) was a German traveler and novelist.He was the son of Friedrich Gerstäcker (1790–1825), a celebrated opera singer. After being apprenticed to a commercial house, he learnt farming in Saxony. In 1837, however, just younger than 21 and having imbibed from Robinson Crusoe a taste for adventure, he went to America and wandered over a large part of the United States, supporting himself by whatever work came to hand. He became fireman on a steamboat, deck hand, farmer, silversmith, and merchant. After wandering through most of the United States, spending some time as a hunter and trapper in the Indian territory, and in 1842 keeping a hotel at Point Coupée, Louisiana, he returned to Germany six adventurous years later in 1843.To his great surprise, he found himself famous as an author. His mother had shown his diary, which he regularly sent home, and which contained descriptions of his adventures in the New World, to the editor of the Rosen, who published them in that periodical. These sketches having found favour with the public, Gerstäcker issued them in 1844 under the title Streif- und Jagdzüge durch die Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika. In 1845 his first novel, Die Regulatoren in Arkansas, appeared marking the start of a successful writing career. Henceforth the stream of his productiveness flowed on uninterruptedly.From 1849 to 1852 Gerstäcker travelled round the world, visiting North and South America, Polynesia and Australia. He experienced the California gold rush, crossed the South Pacific on a whaler, and wandered through Australia and experienced a gold rush there. On his return to Germany, he settled in Leipzig.In 1860 he again went to South America, chiefly with a view to inspecting the German colonies there and reporting on the possibility of diverting the stream of German emigration in this direction. The result of his observations and experiences he recorded in Achtzehn Monate in Südamerika (1862). In 1862 he accompanied Duke Ernest of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Egypt and Abyssinia, and on his return settled at Coburg, where he wrote a number of novels descriptive of the scenes he had visited.In 1867-1868 Gerstäcker again undertook a long journey, visiting North America, Venezuela and the West Indies. He visited Mexico right after the collapse of the Second Mexican Empire, a situation about which he wrote a few passages in one of his books. On his return lived first at Dresden and then at Brunswick. While preparing for a journey to India, China and Japan, he suffered a fatal cerebral haemorrhage on May 31, 1872.The widely traveled adventurer left an oeuvre of 44 volumes, which he edited himself for his Jena publisher H. Costenoble. His stories and novels inspired numerous imitators: Karl May profited from him and used landscape descriptions as well as subjects and characters. Even theatre and movie companies borrowed from his work: the plot of the musical Brigadoon (1954) was adapted from Gerstäckers short story Germelshausen.The Friedrich-Gerstäcker-Gesellschaft e.V. (Fr. G. society) founded in 1978 in Braunschweig offers more information about Gerstäcker and runs a museum about his work.