In this re-discovered novel by a German writer of Jewish descent killed during World War II, a Jewish Berliner named
Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz flees Germany in the days after Kristallnacht in November 1938, seeking refuge in travel.
... stunning ... There is no artifice to the writing ... The novel is remarkable precisely because of the immediacy of its plot—its sense of being written in a continuous present. Boschwitz, who was twenty-three when he finished it, was able to capture what happens when a regime turns on its own citizens and treats them as pariahs, with savage force and daily degradations dressed up in legalese. He had an ear for dialogue and a penchant for the absurd ... Boschwitz’s novel pulsates with such fine, understated descriptions ... One comes away marveling not only at Boschwitz’s craftsmanship but at what can only be called his human spirit: a sense of emotional restraint and the eerie foresight it took to produce this kind of work ... The Passenger exposes the posturing of bystanders who claimed not to have known what the Nazis were doing. Here, at least, we have one example of someone who did know ... The Passenger resembles a message in a bottle: cautionary, despairing, a literary warning ... Certain passages seem specifically designed to chill a present-day reader ... What other brave, urgent works likewise fell into obscurity because of the war?
... superbly translated ... We can be grateful to everyone involved. The Passenger is a riveting, noirish, intensely filmic portrait of an ambivalent fugitive ... The book is urgent, propulsive, often tragicomic, peppered with moments of absurdism and existential speculation, by turns Hitchcockian and Beckettian. It has the immediacy of a novel written in a hurry. But if the original was disordered, this new version is cohesive and beautifully paced ... With great verisimilitude, Boschwitz paints the portrait of a man riven with indecision and well-mannered panic as his options fall away ... Boschwitz is particularly good on the tussle between the new logic and the old order ... a jewel of a rediscovery: At once a deeply satisfying novel and a vital historical document—likely the first literary account, as Mr. Graf writes in his afterword, of Kristallnacht and its repercussions. Through the eyes of Otto Silbermann, we are thrust into the moment when politically legislated persecution tips into full-scale existential assault, our protagonist’s bewilderment morphing into terror and defiance as he tries to convince himself that the situation will surely get better.
Compelling though the real-life tale is, it’s surpassed by the story between the covers ... a story that is part John Buchan, part Franz Kafka and wholly riveting...It is also uncannily prescient ... Boschwitz was a shrewd observer of his time, but his story still resonates nearly a century later when antisemitism is on the rise once more and the exclusion of those who are different remains a pernicious constant across the globe. Besides, some of his insights are timeless ... a gripping novel that plunges the reader into the gloom of Nazi Germany as the darkness was descending. It deserved to be read when it was written. It certainly deserves to be read now.