Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review of Transit by Anna Seghers

Transit is the first-person narrative of a difficult time when transit papers meant everything. The acquiring of  a visa, an exit visa, danger visa, or transit visa are what keeps the characters in this novel away from a new life. After escaping from a Nazi concentration camp, our protagonist is asked to deliver papers in Paris to an author named Weidel. Once he's there, our narrator discovers that Weidel has committed suicide as well as a manuscript for a novel. It is in a large waiting room where our narrator tells his story of how he manages to find Weidel's widow and embark on the journey of getting transit papers.

What makes Transit remarkable is that it's a journey that Anna Seghers once had. She was a refugee attempting to escape before Hitler's army advanced any further into unoccupied territory. Seghers was similar to the characters in this novel who are looking for some place to go but don't always have the necessary documents to get them where they need to go. Almost as if their hopes of leaving Marseille should be null and void because the government made it impossible to leave. Much of the time I wondered who is real in this novel and who is a figment of Seghers imagination.

The characters in Transit are uniquely and vividly described. At times the narrator projects his feelings and attitudes towards that person when describing them to the refugees listening in on the story. I enjoyed this because we get to see the world through the eyes of a man who doesn't seem to really want to go anywhere until it is absolutely a matter of life and death that he goes. A person who describes himself initally as dead for a year. That is until love and hope enter his life.

Ultimately, this is a story that needs to be told and heard. Unfortunately, Seghers account in Transit was not unique during this time in history. There were millions who were subjected to the nightmare of having to return to war torn coutries, that often didn't exist anymore, because someone else told them their documents weren't good. I can't imagine what it feels like to want to leave so badly and my greatest fear is to be left behind. I recommend this novel to those who especially have an interest in World War II era fiction. ***

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