In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with Verena Demel, German student and lover of all things Alcott.
Contributor Verena Demel reads an English version of Little Women surrounded by various translations and adaptations of the novel in Germany. Betty und ihre Schwestern, referenced in her essay, sits on her lap.
What is your favorite scene from Little Women?
I have to talk about each part of Little Women because for me; the parts are quite different.
Part 1: Actually, impossible! All the Christmas scenes, castles in the air, Jo visiting Laurie, Beth and Mr. Laurence . . . but I would say “Camp Laurence,” the whole chapter. It’s an interesting chapter. It’s very different in some of my distinct retellings of Little Women, like whether Kate Vaughn is really rude (the Italian edition) or she would envy Meg secretly (the French). I love the chapter because all characters did improve themselves. Jo is polite and caring, Amy quite friendly (and the only time she wears the famous clothespin on her nose), and Beth isn’t socially inept, but becomes friend with a boy, Frank Vaughn. My German edition stresses the cuteness of the scene, when both are debating about puppies. And what would Little Women be without the first scene between Meg and Mr. Brooke? The clues of brown eyes, a missing glove, and a certain story of how Mr. Brooke witnessed Meg? And how Laurie confesses his interest in Jo and Jo wouldn’t answer a certain question without being mischievous?
Part 2: (Jo and Laurie shippers, please don’t read!) Laurie’s proposal to Amy on the rowboat was very romantic and not shown in any movie so far!
If the March sisters were employed where you work, what would their jobs be?
I’m still studying, but I’m going to be a teacher. Therefore, if the March sisters worked at my school:
- Meg: literature teacher (Meg isn’t paid enough credit for her talents! She is reading Ivanhoe and Mary Stuart!)
- Jo: drama teacher (I’d love to act with her!)
- Beth: music teacher or school nurse
- Amy: art teacher
Who are some of your other “imaginary heroes” from literature?
Captain Fracasse (by Theophile Gautier), characters from The Secret Garden, Heidi, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, Darcy and Lizzy, Colonel Brandon and Marianne, Mr. Knightley and Emma, Lady de Winter and the Three Musketeers (until I read the original book), characters from the Iliad and Odyssey, Medea and the Argonauts.
Amy goes to Europe, Jo goes to New York . . . where did your pivotal “coming of age” moment take place?
I’m studying in Munich.
At various points in the book, characters like Friedrich Bhaer, Jo, Marmee, and Amy sometimes speak uncomfortable truths to other characters. Whose feedback in your life has helped you to grow?
My brother (see below) is a master of uncomfortable truths, a perfect Mr. Knightley.
Jo has both a writing space and a “scribbling suit” in the book. What does your writing space look like? What’s your favorite scribbling suit?
My general study has lots of books and shelves to contain my scribbling, waiting to be written.
Tell us about the sisters, or sister figures, in your life.
My life is rather like Alcott’s Aunt-hill: I have just a brother and not any sisters. Perhaps this was the reason for my great interest in four sisters’ lives.
I would describe the relationship with my brother as similar with the interaction between Jo and Amy, Meg and Jo, and especially between Beth and Amy. I was 13 years old (like Beth) when I read my first novel edition of Little Women (Part 1). My brother is one year younger, but is actually my “big brother.” We’re like very different twins. He’s not artistic, but he’s quite similar to Amy in several points. Amy and Beth share a room, but in the novel, we don’t get much about their relationship and interaction. How would it be if they would have had only each other?
There are, in fact, four sisters in my family story—my grandmother and her sisters. They had to face hard times together during WWII. Originally, I wanted to write about this topic in the anthology, but it’s hard to tell and I don’t want to compare too much. The four Winter sisters were a similar age to our Little Women. The oldest brother was in war, like Mr. March. Hertha, the oldest sister, was 15 in 1945. She is described as beautiful and a bit proud like Meg. Martha (my grandmother) was 12, second like Jo, but the animal-loving and nurturing one, like Beth. And she did want to become a nurse, but hadn’t enough money for it. Hilde, third, was ten. She got very ill, like Beth, but she’s still alive till today. I would compare her with Amy. Erika, the youngest, was only 5. She’s quite quiet, like Beth. There was a lot of sisterly interaction, happy days on a farm in the Bohemian mountains, but also the dark shadows of war and loss. It’s hard to imagine it, so long ago, and I don’t want to mix it up as a story. I know the place where they once lived . . . .
Verena Demel, born in 1996, loves writing stories, poems and plays for leisure. However, like Beth, she has always been too bashful even to talk about her creative work. Sending several entries to different competitions, Verena realized that getting famous as an author isn’t easy. She has followed in Jo’s steps, studying education at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, since 2014.
Verena’s work is dedicated mostly to Little Women.
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