The Blue Stain

The Blue Stain

A Novel of a Racial Outcast

Hugo Bettauer

Translated by Peter Höyng, Chauncey J. Mellor Afterword by Kenneth R. Janken

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A European novel of racial mixing and "passing" in early twentieth-century America that serves as a unique account of transnational and transcultural racial attitudes that continue to reverberate today.

Hugo Bettauer's The Blue Stain, a novel of racial mixing and "passing," starts and ends in Georgia but also takes the reader to Vienna and New York. First published in 1922, the novel tells the story of Carletto, son of a white European academic and an African American daughter of former slaves, who, having passed as white in Europe and fled to America after losing his fortune, resists being seen as "black" before ultimately accepting that identity and joining the early movement for civil rights. Never before translated into English, this is the first novel in which a German-speaking European author addresses early twentieth-century racial politics in the United States - not only in the South but also in the North. There is an irony, however: while Bettauer's narrative aims to sanction a white/European egalitarianism with respect to race, it nevertheless exhibits its own brand of racism by asserting that African Americans need extensive enculturation before they are to be valued as human beings. The novel therefore serves as a unique historical account of transnational and transcultural racial attitudes of the period that continue to reverberate in our present globalized world.

Hugo Bettauer (1872-1925) was a prolific Austrian writer and journalist, a very early victim of the Nazis. Peter Höyng is Associate Professor of German Studies at Emory University. Chauncey J. Mellor is Emeritus Professor of German at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Kenneth R. Janken is Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Peter Höyng
Part One: Georgia
Part Two: Carletto
Part Three: The Colored Gentleman
Afterword by Kenneth R. Janken


[A]n important historical document that tried to show its German-speaking readers the little-known injustices of the highly segregated American society under Jim Crow. [It] is also important in its attempt to depict European society as morally superior, which corresponds with the portrayal of Europe in novels of the Harlem Renaissance era. . . . Thanks to Peter Höyng's and Chauncey J. Mellor's careful translation, the novel is now available to English-speaking readers, who will also appreciate the thoughtful introduction and afterword that provide much-needed context. DELOS [Gregor Thuswaldner]

[M]erits the attention of several audiences and is a valuable resource for those interested in the Harlem Renaissance. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. CHOICE

[O]ffers marvelous opportunities in today's "German Literature in Translation" courses, especially for those who wish to explore vast and complex dialogues between Austria and the world at large, while also coming close to home for many American readers, who will find the topics raised by the novel very relevant to the events surrounding them here and now. JOURNAL OF AUSTRIAN STUDIES

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