Volume 10, Issue 1, December 2019

A Word from the Editor

This issue of Fiction and Film for Scholars of France revolves around the voyage of the Capitaine Paul Lemerle carrying famous and less famous “undesirables” from Marseilles to Martinique in March 1941. These were refugees from the Spanish Civil War, artists, intellectuals, and politicians, many of them German Jews, hunted by the Gestapo and expelled by the Vichy authorities. They were on their way to the United States and Mexico but found themselves stranded for months in Fort-de-France. Novelist Adrien Bosc follows the trajectories of some of its most famous passengers: André Breton, Victor Serge, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anna Seghers, Wilfredo Lam, and Germaine Krull, to name but a few. Eric Jennings who recently published a scholarly study of Martinique during the Vichy regime, tells us how vividly and accurately Bosc recreates the ship’s departure from France, life on board, and the horrific conditions they endured in the makeshift concentration camp on the island.

It is there, in spring 1941, that André Breton discovered Aimé Césaire, his wife Suzanne, and other members the island’s négritude movement, and surrealism merged with anti-colonialism. Kristen Stromberg Childers reviews Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, its inception and future versions, the encounter with Breton, and the women who are too often neglected in the telling of this story.

The masterpiece to emerge from this period is Anna Seghers’ novel Transit, retracing through its characters the bureaucratic madness of collecting all the necessary papers and permits to leave Marseilles and reach a safe haven across the Atlantic. Ruth Schwertfeger analyses the novel and Christian Petzold’s 2018 film adaptation by the same name. While Petzold updates the story to an imaginary present –a Marseilles where Arab refugees and immigrants are hounded by a police state–he retains some aspects of the past, including the wartime pursuit of Jews. Schwertfeger wonders how far one can universalize the particular circumstances of the Holocaust

Happy reading!

Liana Vardi

University at Buffalo, SUNY


Table of Contents


Anna Seghers’ and Christian Petzold’s Transit, by Ruth Schwertfeger
Adrien Bosc’s novel on the voyage of the Capitaine Paul Lemerle (1941), by Eric Jennings
Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, by Kristen Stromberg Childers

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