Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers - 1942 - translated by Margot Dembo, 2017

Anna Seghers (née Netty Reiling; 1900–1983) was born in Mainz, Germany, into an upper-middle-class Jewish family. 

In November of 2013 I read and greatly enjoyed Transit by Anna Seghers.  I was very happy to be given a new translation of her novel The Seventh Cross set in Germany in the opening years of WW II.  Seghers, from an aristocratic Jewish family, made it to America.  Her financial struggles ended when Hollywood gave her $75,000 (equivalent now to $1,800,000) for the movie rights.  The book sold over 400,000 copies in the USA and has been translated into over thirty languages.  

I trying to get caught up on my posting before year end.  This novel deserves a long post but I will just be very brief.  Seven men escape from a Nazi concentration camp.  The commandant, potentially in big trouble over this, erects seven crosses to execute the escapees.  Seghers lets us see what life was like in Germany as the men try to get out of the country.

I am very glad I read this book and I know my post is too short to close to do it justice.

She was a sickly and introverted child by her own account, but became an intellectually curious student, eventually earning a doctorate in art history at the University of Heidelberg in 1924; her first story, written under the name Antje Seghers, was published in the same year. In 1925 she married a Hungarian immigrant economist and began her writing career in earnest. By 1929 Seghers had joined the Communist Party, given birth to her first child, and received the Kleist Prize for her first novel, The Revolt of the Fisherman. Having settled in France in 1933, Seghers was forced to flee again after the 1940 Nazi invasion. With the aid of Varian Fry, Seghers, her husband, and two children sailed from Marseille to Mexico on a ship that included among its passengers Victor Serge, André Breton, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. After the war she moved to East Berlin, where she became an emblematic figure of East German letters, actively championing the work of younger writers from her position as president of the Writers Union and publishing at a steady pace. Among Seghers’s internationally regarded works are The Seventh Cross (1939; adapted for film in 1944 by MGM), one of the only World War II–era depictions of Nazi concentration camps; the novella Excursion of the Dead Girls (1945); The Dead Stay Young (1949); and the story collection Benito’s Blue (1973).

Margot Bettauer Dembo has translated works by Judith Hermann, Robert Gernhardt, Joachim Fest, Ödön von Horváth, and Feridun Zaimoglu, among others. She was awarded the Goethe-Institut/Berlin Translator’s Prize in 1994 and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize in 2003. Dembo has also worked as a translator for two feature documentary films: The Restless Conscience, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and The Burning Wall. Her translation of Transit by Anna Seghers was published by NYRB Classics in 2013. From NYRB

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