Monday, May 20, 2013

BiblioFile: Das Haus das tickts (1977)

House was published in Germany as Das Haus das tickts and is described on the back cover of that book as being, “Ein spiritistisch-komischer Gruselroman mit richtigen Hexen and Zauberen unserer Zeit.” (“A spiritualist-comic horror novel with real witches and magicians of our time.”)

Das Haus is a small paperback novel, somewhat shorter in length and height than the Bantam paperbacks in our collection (it appears the same thickness as those paperbacks, too). Its black cover features a rounded rectangle of white bordering a dull yellow re-coloring of Edward Gorey’s cover from the Dial edition, including the titular house and the mysterious Hand of Glory. Wikipedia notes the black-and-yellow coloring was deliberate, as it was something of an iconic look used by the publisher since 1974, though white replaced yellow in 1990. Above the images and within the rectangle are the author credits – John Bellairs and Edward Gorey – through which one gets the impression that the book was a collaborative effort. Their names and the title – separated by a white dot – are displayed in some sort of generic Germanic font. Below the images is the name of the publisher, Diogenes.

Diogenes Verlag is a Swiss publishing house founded in 1952 by Daniel Keel (1930-2011); its name combines the name of the ancient Greek philosopher and founder of cynic philosophy (412-323 BCE) and the German word for publisher. It is Europe’s largest purely literary publishing house, so says their website, further boasting that “with the total number of works published amounting to almost 190 million, Diogenes has so far released more than 5,800 titles, out of which more than 2,000 are still available.”

Inside the front cover of Das Haus, “Diogenes Taschenbuch 131” appears above the logotype detebe. In 1971, the first Diogenes paperbacks appeared, known as detebe for short; therefore it would make sense for a book published six years later to be #131 in a series.

Opposite the frontispiece is the title and “Roman” (“novel”) and “Aus dem Amerikanischen von Alexander Schmitz Zeichnungen von Edward Gorey”. We’re not exactly sure yet what “From American Alexander Schmitz” means though a search yields the phrase associated with a handful of other books.

Thumbing through the book one can’t help notice that Gorey’s images seem a bit crisper here – maybe it’s age of the book and the whiteness of the pages. Also the fact that quotation marks are not used to identify words spoken by the characters; rather the double greater-than or lesser-than signs are used. For example, here’s Jonathan welcoming his nephew to his new home in Michigan:
»Hallo, Lewis, ich bin dein Onkel Jonathan. Ich habe dich gleich erkannt...nach einem Photo, das mir dein Vater mal geschickt hat. Herzlich willkommen in Zebeedee. «

And – hello, what’s this? We mentioned the Fusebox Dwarf a few months ago and the attempt to translate his mantra into German. Here’s the real deal:
Er erfand den Elektro-Zwerg-in-der-Schachtel, ein kleines Männchen, das plötzlich hinter den Farbtöpfen im Kellergang auf einen zusprang und rief: »Huh-huh! Ich bin der Elektro-Zwerg.«

Flipping to the end of the book we find a bibliography of other titles published by Diogenes from authors as varied as Jules Verne, Muriel Spark, and Ray Bradbury. The real icing on the cake with this version comes on the back cover, where within a white circle is displayed a previously unknown (by us) photo of the author.

Now if you pay attention and look for a copy of this for yourself, you might soon see a version whose front cover differs slightly. Instead of the titles being in that generic Germanic font we mentioned earlier, the font on this other version is displayed in something akin to Times – serifs and so on. What’s the difference? Based on what we can tell it’s simply a later version of the book. The back cover of the “Germanic font” edition notes the ISBN and the following: [6.80]. We assume this was price of the book in Deutsche Marks. The rear cover of the “non-Germanic font” edition features no picture of the author, a bit of text that looks to be a snippet of a review, the ISBN, and [8.80]. Based on the belief that prices go up over time, it would seem the price went up by two Marks at some point. There is however nothing on the copyright pages we can find to denote a second or later printing.


Anonymous said...

Hello from the Fatherland!

“Aus dem Amerikanischen von Alexander Schmitz" means: Translated from the American English by Alexander Schmitz"

Best regards,

Kai J.

bellairsia said...

Good to know! Thanks!

Wolfgang-Armin Rittmeier said...

It should say "tickts" instead of "ticket". ;-)
All the best