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Prose/Poetry in Translation

Vol. 13 No. 1 (2021): Transnational Literature Special Edition: Follow the Sun

Westward Ho! Annemarie Schwarzenbach between East and West in 1940

December 5, 2020



Annemarie Schwarzenbach was a Swiss writer, photographer and traveller who visited the Middle East and Persia several times in the mid-nineteen-thirties. In an attempt to free herself from morphine addiction, she left Geneva in June 1939 with fellow Swiss traveller Ella Maillart, the two women driving overland to Afghanistan. They parted company in Kabul, met again briefly in India from where Schwarzenbach travelled back by steamship to Genoa. War had broken out, she was restless, addicted, and unsure where her life was heading. After a short stay in Switzerland, she was back in Genoa and caught the steamship Manhattan bound for New York, where her friends Erika and Klaus Mann were in exile, and where she would meet the young writer Carson McCullers. Written on board the Manhattan, this short text illustrates Schwarzenbach’s wandering spirit, her trustafarian, romantic view of Asia, as well as her lyrical gift. In New York her addiction and disorientation took a turn for the worse, she was committed to Bellevue psychiatric clinic and eventually expelled from the United States. She died in Switzerland in November 1942, from injuries sustained in a fall from her bicycle. Schwarzenbach’s photos were the subject of a major exhibition in the Klee Center in Bern in September 2020.