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1906 stage edition
Margarete Böhme & Diary of a Lost Girl
Margarete Böhme (1867-1939) authored 40 novels. Her work was compared to that of the great French writer Émile Zola.
In the first decades of the last century, The Diary of a Lost Girl was nothing less than a literary phenomenon. The book was published in 1905. By the end of the Twenties, more than 1,200,000 copies were in print.
One contemporary scholar has called it “Perhaps the most notorious and certainly the commercially most successful autobiographical narrative of the early twentieth century.”
Today, The Diary of a Lost Girl is accepted as a work of fiction. But when first published, it was believed to be the genuine diary of a young girl. Controversy swirled around its authorship.
People from all walks of life wrote to Böhme asking after the fate of Thymian. Some wrote to say they had cried over the book. Others, wanting to pay their respects, enquired as to where this "lost girl" 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 some countries.
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 were heavily censored). At the beginning of the Nazi era, there were renewed attempts to ban the book.
Though considered only a potboiler, Böhme's book had admirers among the literati. Once well known authors Hall Caine and Percival Pollard praised it highly. The German critic Walter Benjamin wrote about the book. And the American novelist Henry Miller included it on his list of books which influenced him the most.
1988 German reprint
Praise for the original editions 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 (1907)
"There are many readers, however, who find it very shocking, and Mr. Bram Stoker, the advocate of book censoring . . . would ban it promptly." – New York Times (1907)
“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 (1909)
“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 (1907)
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