Austrian author wrote Bambi the deer in 1923 which made the fortune of the creator of Mickey twenty years later. The Vienna Museum is dedicating an exhibition to the sad fate of this writer banned by the regime.
The whole world knows Bambi, the great classic of Walt Disney. But who remembered the name of Felix Salten? The creator of the mythical fawn was, however, a prolific man of letters of the Viennese golden age, who had to flee the Nazis. Honored by the Museum of Vienna (MUSA), in the 1930s this Jewish author sold the rights to his animal novel for $ 1,000 to an American producer, who then sold them to the famous animation studio.
Written in 1923, Bambi, the story of a life in the woods, presented on a dust jacket without the image of a deer, did not initially attract crowds. “Felix Salten changed publishers and at that point the book became a huge success, before being made even more famous, of course, by the film adaptation in 1942.», Explained Ursula Storch, curator of the exhibition. In the meantime, Bambi is banned like the whole of the work of the writer because of its origins, in Germany first, then in Austria annexed by Adolf Hitler in 1938.
SEE ALSO – Meet Bambi’s creator: Felix Salten, Austrian man of letters who fled the Nazis
Since then, the poignant story of the young animal confronted with the mourning of its mother killed by hunters, has given rise to multiple interpretations. Felix Salten, a hunter himself, delivers a story about the nature and darkness of human beings, notes Ursula Storch, while recalling that he never gave himself up to an exegesis of his text.
It’s a tale “deeply rooted in its time, much more than a simple story for children about the loss of the mother», Comments the philosopher Maxime Rovère, author of the preface to the new French edition. Behind “the impression of fear, the perpetual flight of animals“,”impossible not to make the connection with personal experienceFrom the author, who is witnessing the rise of anti-Semitism.
Symbol of intellectual Vienna
However, his work cannot be reduced to Bambi: the exhibition shows the extent of the work of this representative of Viennese modernism. Born in March 1869 in Budapest in the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire, Felix Salten joined the capital Vienna with his family the following year. He began to work as a journalist at the dawn of his 20 years, a profession “remained his livelihood for more than 50 years», Says Marcel Atze, responsible for the collection of manuscripts at the Library of Vienne.
“Touch all“,”tongue chameleon», He will also write about fifty books: we owe him opera librarians, poems, art critics, film scripts and even a pornographic novel, Josefine mutzenbacher.
He frequented “The best”, Like the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud or the musician Richard Strauss, tells the curator of the exhibition. But the Anschluss suddenly turned this worldly life upside down. In a letter, Felix Salten confides his “contempt of Viennese and Austrians in generalWhich greet Hitler with jubilation.
His private diary testifies to his anguish which grows over the days. “His notes go straight to the heart. When you read them you can really imagine what happened», Relates Marcel Atze, who spent several weeks deciphering them with his colleagues. “He is incredibly valuable as a witness because there are very few documents like this», He still analyzes.
The posthumous recognition of Vienna
The man of letters feverishly prepares his departure for Switzerland, which he will join in March 1939 with his wife, taking thousands of books from his library. Two years later he was deprived of his nationality by the Nazis, on a day marked “in red and not in black or blue as usual“In his notebook, notes Marcel Atze, and”will tremble»Until his last breath in 1945.
His Swiss granddaughter, Lea Wyler, did not know him but through family accounts she describes “a broken man“, Affected by the death of her son as a result of a car accident and the loss of”Vienna, his house, his friends“. “Of this man so gifted, so full of humor and mischief“, She regrets that posterity does not remember”than Bambi“. When, worse still, he is not eclipsed by his own creation.
“Everyone thinks Disney made it up. The credit doesn’t even go to him and during that time the US studio has amassed millions», Protested Lea Wyler, saluting anyway«a feeling of redemptionIn the recognition granted today by the city of Vienna.
1869 Born in Budapest, then his family moved to Vienna.
1906 Publish an erotic book, Josefine Mutzenbacher: story of a girl from Vienna.
1923 Publishes in Zurich Bambi the deer.
1929 Publishes Hops the hare.
1942 Release Bambi, Walt Disney cartoon.
[1945 Written Bambi’s Children, a family in the forest. He died in Zurich where he had settled in 1939.
Bambi by Walt Disney in 1942, inspired by the work of Félix Salten