Anna Seghers’s Transit is an existential, political, literary thriller that explores the agonies of boredom, the vitality of storytelling, and the plight of the exile with extraordinary compassion and insight.
Having escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in Germany in 1937, and later a camp in Rouen, the nameless twenty-seven-year-old German narrator of Seghers’s multilayered masterpiece ends up in the dusty seaport of Marseille. Along the way he is asked to deliver a letter to a man named Weidel in Paris and discovers Weidel has committed suicide, leaving behind a suitcase containing letters and the manuscript of a novel. As he makes his way to Marseille to find Weidel’s widow, the narrator assumes the identity of a refugee named Seidler, though the authorities think he is really Weidel. There in the giant waiting room of Marseille, the narrator converses with the refugees, listening to their stories over pizza and wine, while also gradually piecing together the story of Weidel, whose manuscript has shattered the narrator’s “deathly boredom,” bringing him to a deeper awareness of the transitory world the refugees inhabit as they wait and wait for that most precious of possessions: transit papers.
Transit is a masterpiece of modern prose, and often reminds the very best of John Dos Passos and Franz Kafka.
Ruth Almog, Haaretz
Beni Tsiper reflects on Anna Zeghers legacy following a visit to her museum in Berlin.
Beni Tsiper, Haaretz
Transit is considered one of the greatest novels about World War II exiles. Without writing directly about the war, Zeghers succeeded in describing it through coffee-shop dialogues, and the different characters the protagonist meets in his quest for a transit."
Ruth Almog, Ha'aretz
The life of Anna Seghers, who fled Nazi Germany, is reflected in her novel Transit recently published in Hebrew, whose protagonists are war refugees. How did the Jewish author translate the horror into a resounding masterpiece, what is her connection to the philosopher Walter Benjamin and why did she return to post-war Germany?
Avner Shapira, Haaretz
Seghers' astounding writing, filled with empathy and ranging between simplicity and lyricism, deals with the current while transcending to a superior level; it is a theological and existential fable about the fragility of identity, strengthening and weakening during exile, about the power of an individual to breath life in the other - all of whom are confined by the capriciousness of time
Netta Halperin, Israel Hayom
There are many stories of escape and survival of Jewish or Communist families from the jaws of the Nazis. The uniqueness of this book is that it was written as the events unfolded and in a style which makes it transcend time.
Havatselet Praver, Makor Rishon