Today, The Diary of a Lost Girl is accepted as a work of fiction. But when first published, it was claimed to be the genuine diary of a young woman. Controversy swirled around its authorship for years.
People from all walks of life wrote to Margarete Böhme, who was credited as editor, asking after the fate of Thymian, the "lost girl." Some wrote to say they had cried over the book. Others, believing her to be real and wanting to pay their respects, enquired as to where she was buried.
The book was a sensation across Europe. It was translated into 14 languages, and was widely reviewed. There were even pirated versions in two countries. There was also a novelization of the second film adaption published in France.
A stage play based on the book was banned in some German cities, as were the two silent films based on the book. Eventually, each of the films were rereleased after being withdrawn; each was heavily censored.
Though considered a potboiler in some quarters, Böhme's book had admirers among the literati of the time. Well known authors of the day like Hall Caine and Percival Pollard praised it highly. The German critic Walter Benjamin commented on it in his journals. And, years later, the American novelist Henry Miller included it on his list of books which influenced him the most.
Margarete Böhme (1867-1939) was, arguably, one of the most widely read German writers of the early 20th century. She authored 40 novels – as well as short stories, autobiographical sketches, and articles. At the height of her fame, her work was compared to that of the French writer Émile Zola. The Diary of a Lost Girl, first published in German as Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, is her best known book.
Louise Brooks (1906-1985), who played Thymian in the second film adaption of the book, was herself a victim of sexual abuse. This American-born actress achieved film immortality in the role of Lulu in the 1929 German film, Pandora's Box, her first collaboration with director G.W. Pabst.
Praise for MARGARETE BÖHME:
"One of Germany's most popular novelists... a masterful intellect." – Rebecca West, The Freewoman
"One of the leading novelists of the younger realistic school in Germany." – The Bookman
"...out of the ordinary, in both matter and manner." – New York Evening Post
Praise for the original edition of THE DIARY OF A LOST GIRL:
The “poignant story of a great-hearted girl who kept her soul alive amidst all the mire that surrounded her poor body.” – Hall Caine
“The fact that one German critic asserted the impossibility of a woman herself immune from vice having written such a book, is proof that besides truth of matter there was compelling art in Margarete Böhme’s book.” – Percival Pollard
“The moral justification of such a publication is to be found in the fact that it shrivels up sentimentality; the weak thing cannot stand and look at such stark degradation.” – Manchester Guardian
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