Robinson Crusoe: undaunted at 300 | Film | DW | 25.04.2019
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Robinson Crusoe: undaunted at 300

One of the most famous books in literary history is 300 years old. Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" may no longer be required reading, but the story continues to inspire filmmakers to this very day.

What is the appeal of Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel with its in-depth description of survival techniques, agriculture and livestock breeding on a tropical island while the castaway protagonist seeks for 28 long years to live a life agreeable to God? Why hasn't the novel fallen into oblivion, and why do people still today recognize the title — even if they haven't read "Robinson Crusoe" — and roughly know what it is about?

Meanwhile, some writers have noted that the story, set during the time of slavery, is founded on racist stereotypes whereby cohort Friday, a man of color, subordinates himself to Crusoe and voluntarily becomes his servant. The issue of race relations in the story was partly addressed in the 1975 film "Man Friday" starring Richard Roundtree and Peter O'Toole.

Buchcover l Robinson Crusoe von Daniel Defoe (mare Verlag)

The latest German translation lands on the book's tricentennial

Societal castaway

"On his island, Robinson experiences all the conflicts every single person and every society faces again and again," says German writer and journalist Günter Wessel in the appendix to a new German translation of the classic. "He observes the relationship of nature and culture, solitude and society, doing without something, and greed, ownership and existence — there is even evidence of a longing for escapism."

Shipwreck, castaway, washed up on a faraway island — Defoe's novel inspired and fascinated filmmakers from the silent movie era to this very day. Popular films and TV series with a shipwreck motif include the 1960s US TV sitcom "Gilligan's Island", the more contemporary US series "Lost" (2004 - 2010), and the 2001 Hollywood blockbuster "Cast Away" starring Tom Hanks.

Click through the picture gallery above to discover more films inspired by the adventure novel written 300 years ago.   

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