Universiteit Leiden

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Debate | Discussion

What can historians learn from literary fiction?

  • Dr. Edit Zsadányi
Wednesday 18 January 2017
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference Room (2.60)

The Rethinking Disability Group invites you to discuss a forgotten classic, Anna Seghers’ Transit (1944), according to many critics the best Exilroman ever.

A tireless pack of officials was on the move night and day, like dogcatchers, intent on fishing suspicious people out of the crowds as they passed through, so as to put them into city jails from which they’d be dragged off to a concentration camp if they didn’t have the money to pay the ransom or to hire a crafty lawyer who would later split the outsize reward for freeing the prisoner with the dogcatcher himself. As a result, everyone, especially the foreigners, guarded their passports and identification papers as if they were their very salvation. I was amazed to see the authorities, in the midst of this chaos, inventing ever more intricate drawn-out procedures for sorting, classifying, registering, and stamping these people over whose emotions they had lost all power. It was like trying to register every Vandal, Goth, Hun, and Langobard during the "Barbarian invasion". (excerpt from the novel).

‘It is this agony of waiting, of not knowing, of never arriving and never returning, that Seghers brilliantly captures in Transit. It is an agony in some ways worse than the horrors of war.’ (Dialog International: German-American discourse on politics and culture blog).

The discussion will be introduced and moderated by Dr. Edit Zsadányi (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), an expert in literary theory, comparative literature and gender studies.

For those who would like to join in the discussion, copies of the book in the German original, as well as in English and Dutch translation can be borrowed from the Institute Secretariat.

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