The German novel out of which were carved the film, “Maedchen in Uniform”, and the play, “Children in Uniform”, has just come to us in translation under the title, “The Child Manuela”, of which the author is Christa Winsloe, otherwise known as the Baroness Hatvany.
The film and the novel were concerned with the child Manuela from the time she entered that horrible barracks-school for German officers’ children, the Princess Helene Institute. The films and the play were sensitive exposes of the application of the Prussian temper to children’s education. The unhappy ending of the book was skilfully averted in film and play, but the feeling with which one left the theatre was none the less inconclusive.
The book tells us the complete story of the child Manuela, almost from her birth. The boarding school section takes up half the book, but hardly more than a year of the life of the child. We see the baby, the little girl in all her family, school and social relationships. To understand her conditioningâ€”as this book makes us understand itâ€”prepare the mind and heart better for the boarding school section. The book as a whole is poignant, although falling far short of greatness. To sum it up, the Baroness Hatvany’s more than adequate novel is a sensitive version of the free childlike spirit crushed in the harsh, misunderstanding and regimented world of adults, and Prussianized adults at that.
The novel is published here by Farrar and Rinehart in the capable translation of Agnes Neill Scott.