Written in 1941, while she was living in exile in Mexico, and published in 1944 in Mexico and the United States, Anna Seghers’ novel Transit
replicates on a formal level an experience of displacement, statelessness, and exile. In the following analysis, I examine Transit
as a text of forced migration. Several features of the novel attempt to produce an experience of displacement: the narrative situation, the incorporation of descriptions that place the events of World War II into a longer history of forced migration, and the use of references to the genre of the fairy tale. The descriptions that engage with past forced migration and displacement attempt to universalize the historical specificities of the time period, whereas the references to fairy tales generate a sense of timelessness associated with this genre. Through these strategies, Seghers’ novel itself attempts to displace time. Seghers situates Transit
within a long history of forced migration and exile, in which the categories that are often used to define and divide populations—such as nationality, ethnicity, and religion—are in flux. By emphasizing the role of mistaken identity, Seghers destabilizes the concept of immutable identities in a period of upheaval and transition.
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