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Transit by Anna Seghers
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Transit (original 1944; edition 2001)

by Anna Seghers

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3191234,767 (4)57
Member:erezv
Title:Transit
Authors:Anna Seghers
Info:Aufbau-Verlag (2001), Gebundene Ausgabe, 350 pages
Collections:Your library, Work
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Transit by Anna Seghers (1944)

  1. 00
    Lisa Fittko : Autobiography by Lisa Fittko (MeisterPfriem)
    MeisterPfriem: The anti-nazi resistance fighters Lisa and Hans Fittko, in cooperating with Varian Frey, were risking their own lifes guiding refugees over the Pyrenees to Spain.
  2. 00
    Surrender on Demand by Varian Fry (rebeccanyc)
    rebeccanyc: Anna Seghers fled Nazi Europe through Marseille on a visa provided by Varian Fry, who saved many of the leading intellectuals and artists of Europe. This is his account of how he did it, published originally in 1945.
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» See also 57 mentions

English (11)  Dutch (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The ports of Southern Europe are filling up with desperate refugees. They are residents of bombed-out cities, members of persecuted ethnic groups, people who belong to the wrong political party, people who have fought on the wrong side in earlier conflicts, people who don't know where they live or which country they belong to any more. And they are stuck on the border, trying to jump through the bureaucratic hoops in the right sequence so that they will be allowed to move on to a new life in another country.

But they are all heading south, to Africa, the Americas, anywhere away from the horror of Europe.

If you didn't know better, you might think that this was an elaborate satire on the present refugee crisis. But of course it's 1940/1941, we are in Vichy France, and the terror that the refugees are escaping from is that of Nazi Germany.

Seghers wrote this book whilst she was en route into exile in Mexico, and it clearly draws heavily on her own experience of the atmosphere of wartime Marseilles and the absurdities of the visa process, but it isn't a straight autobiographical account. She explores what it means to be a refugee through a narrator who is so alienated that he doesn't even have a name any more, still less a clear idea of where he is going or what he is escaping from. He is just a random ordinary person who got drawn into a fight with an SA man and found himself in a concentration camp, escaped to France by swimming the Rhine, and doesn't want to fall into the hands of the Nazis. He has acquired some false papers in the name of Seidler, and he would be perfectly happy to carry on living on those somewhere in France, but he has also accidentally got entangled with the posthumous existence of a deceased novelist called Weidler, whose friends are trying to get him to Mexico and whose estranged wife can't get out of France without his help.

Things get more and more complicated, and the narrator gets drawn further and further into the complexities of the visa system, where you typically find you can't get document A before you have received document B, but document B depends on document C, which you can't get without A, and so on. As we follow him through the queues and consulates and the chance meetings with fellow-refugees in cafés along the way, we gradually learn more about what it might feel like to be stateless, detached from your identity and background.

(Incidentally, we also learn a good deal more about the intriguing flat bread topped with cheese and tomatoes that is the staple food of the transients in Southern Europe - this must surely be one of the earliest literary explorations of pizza-culture...)

Not an easy or a cheerful read, even if it is often very funny, but definitely still a book we can learn something from today. ( )
2 vote thorold | May 8, 2016 |
This novel is told in the first person narrative and is a very engaging story. The characters are depicted as very human and we get a picture of life in the early WWII time period when displaced people are migrating out of Europe. You can feel the anxiety of those fleeing as they are trying to obtain the necessary documents while the laws were very rigid. I enjoyed this book very much and I would recommend it to those who like WWII era fiction.
( )
  EadieB | Jan 19, 2016 |
review to come. It was in interesting premise but somewhat repetitive and after a a while, I felt bored. ( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Transit Anna Seghers
★★★★

The book is based on the authors real life attempt to escape the Nazis

The story largely focusses on one mans attempt to escape from the Nazis via Paris and eventually Marseille where he ends up trapped in a endless circle of beaurocracy.

Having escaped from a German concentration camp the narrator has ended up in Marseille by way of agreeing to deliver a letter, in Marseille he learns that refugees are not wanted in fact the only way to stay in Marseille is by proving that you are trying to leave. Each refugee is desperate to be on the next boat that leaves (except the narrator) to be allowed to leave however they need various documents, transit visa, exit visa, proof of passage, refugee status etc all these documents have a limited lifespan and it is virtually impossible to have all the documents valid at the same time.

Through the narrator we meet several characters over and over again as their applications progress and fail.

The narrator wanting to stay in Marseille assumes the identity of a dead man to get the paperwork which will allow him to leave thereby guaranteeing he can stay. This false identity leads to confusion with certain other refugees and leads to the narrator almost losing his own self.

I enjoyed the book and did not find the repetition boring as each repetition did add something more to the story even it was just the realization that refugees were trapped in a Kafkaesque kind of hell.

I also enjoyed the romantic sideline and the confusion of identity this caused the narrator

A different kind of book with a new view of life under the Nazi regime
( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
WW2, Marseilles is the only port in unoccupied France still operating. This is the place where refugees of all sorts end up and make the rounds for exit visa, transit visa, permits of all kinds and the rare spaces available on the ships leaving. The story is told by one of them, escaped from a German camp and then a French camp, finally reaching Marseilles where the only way he can stay is if he proves he is trying to leave. A quite absurd roundabout where he encounters again and again the same people, staying in a state in limbo, waiting for something to give him a decisive shove, to give his life meaning. ( )
  sushicat | Jan 14, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anna Seghersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Böll, HeinrichAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Conrad, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dembo, Margot BettauerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mooij, MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rost, NicoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Würzner, M.H.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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