The Rear-View Mirror: The Excursion of the Dead Girls (1944)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Anna Seghers’ short story The Excursion of the Dead Girls starts with the heroine Netty walking through the Mexican desert as a middle-aged woman, but quickly spirals into past memories, fairy tales and metaphor, all connected to that school trip in Germany many years ago. It’s semi-autobiographical – Seghers, after going through two worlds wars, had to escape Europe, and it was Mexico that seemed to offer a way out, as told in her novel Transit. Plus Seghers calls her protagonist Netty, a name she got called in her youth. Continue reading

Unable to stay, unwilling to leave

It’s spooky how easily Christian Petzold’s Transit juxtaposes the mass escape from Germany in 1940 with the mass migrations of today. There should not be so many parallels between the two movements, 70 or 80 years apart, but there are. His movie is based on the 1944 novel Transit by Anna Seghers, which mainly takes place in Marseille and is about a small group of German migrants who want to flee Nazi Germany and get a transit visa in order to get to Mexico. Petzold’s movie shows them in today’s Marseille, trying to flee the country, but getting stuck in the red tape procedures that must be all too familiar to any migrant anywhere. Continue reading