Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Transit by Anna Seghers

Transit (original 1944; edition 2001)

by Anna Seghers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3371332,652 (3.91)66
Authors:Anna Seghers
Info:Aufbau-Verlag (2001), Gebundene Ausgabe, 350 pages
Collections:Your library, Work

Work details

Transit by Anna Seghers (1944)

  1. 00
    Testimony 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.

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 66 mentions

English (12)  Dutch (1)  All (13)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
... 'don't you ever feel like going home again?'
… 'A leaf blowing in the wind would have an easier time finding its old twig again.'”
p 156

The narrator, who has escaped from a Nazi concentration has been captured and interred in a French camp. As the Nazi's approach, he fears for his life, and escapes a second time to flee to Paris. But once again, the Nazis are advancing, and after attempting to deliver a letter to a writer named Weidel whom he discovers has committed suicide, he flees south once more with Weidel's suitcase in hand.

The French, however, are not fond of refugees and so our narrator winds up with a variety of false identities as he enters Marseilles, France's last open port. He'd like to stay there, but is only allowed to be there if he is actively trying to leave, so he begins to half-heartedly play the game of acquiring the proper visas. This is a complicated since visas must be obtained for exiting France, entering the destination country, obtaining transit visas for each port in every country the ship may stop, and booking ship passage. The bureaucracy is almost insurmountable – one can not obtain item 'A' without first having item “D” and each item is only good for thirty days. He is one of a faceless mass, with very few of the overworked officials caring about much but their own safety.

It's also a deadly game as many of the refugees will be imprisoned if they aren't able to leave before the Nazis arrive- Jews, escapees from concentration camps, cripples, gypsies and those who fought against Franco.

The novel's repetitiveness and frustrations leave us feeling those emotions along with the refugees. It's a world where identities are lost and no plans can exist as one can only wait to see what happens next. ( )
  streamsong | Feb 13, 2017 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seghers, Annaprimary 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
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Important events
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Die "Montreal" soll untergegangen sein zwischen Dakar und Martinique.
Last words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
44 wanted5 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.91)
2 2
3 13
3.5 5
4 32
4.5 8
5 9

NYRB Classics

An edition of this book was published by NYRB Classics.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,309,976 books! | Top bar: Always visible