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The Passenger Reviews

The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, Andre Aciman

The Passenger

Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, Andre Aciman

4.33 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Pushkin Press
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication date: 1 Apr 2021
ISBN: 9781782275381

Twenty-three-year-old Ulrich Boschwitz wrote The Passenger at breakneck speed in 1938, fresh in the wake of the Kristallnacht pogroms, and his prose flies at the same pace. Shot through with Hitchcockian tension, The Passenger is a blisteringly immediate story of flight and survival in Nazi Germany.

  • The GuardianBook of the Day
5 stars out of 5
7 Apr 2021

"a story that is part John Buchan, part Franz Kafka and wholly riveting."

Silbermann becomes a man on the run, hopping on and off trains criss-crossing Germany. At first, each journey is part of some vague strategy for survival – at one point he tries to make an illegal break across the border into Belgium – but soon there is no real destination, only desperation and eventually disintegration: he is forever travelling but going nowhere. There is tension, as Silbermann seeks to dodge those who might check his papers, relying on his Aryan looks to blend in as fellow passengers greet him with a “Heil Hitler!”, but there is also the surreal, thickly claustrophobic atmosphere of an actual nightmare – a man repeating the same move over and over again, his goal permanently out of reach. The result is a story that is part John Buchan, part Franz Kafka and wholly riveting... The Passenger is 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.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
15 May 2021

"When Otto Silberman is stripped of all right to exist, he takes to the railways to dodge the Nazis in this tense, nightmarish novel of 1938"

To see Boschwitz’s haunting tale written before the outbreak of war and the horrors of the camps is breathtaking. But if there is one thing that this newly discovered classic makes clear, it is that its vision of the barbarism about to take place was no prophecy: the writing was already on the wall, if only one dared to read it.

 
4 stars out of 5
2 May 2021

"This brilliant rediscovered thriller is up there with the best Second World War novels"

This is a brilliant novel. The existential crisis that overtook Jews in Nazi Germany is rivetingly caught. Silbermann is not just a successful businessman, he’s a First World War hero who looks entirely Aryan, but it counts for nothing. Even though he is travelling with a briefcase stuffed with deutschmarks, he is trapped, condemned to go nowhere. He exists under the terrifying absurdity of being a criminal on the run who hasn’t committed a crime, and this tense, fluent thriller takes place over a handful of restless, remorseless days as Silbermann moves, so often unrecognised, among those who purport to hate him.

4 stars out of 5
13 Apr 2021

"A very welcome rediscovery"

As the violence of Kristallnacht shatters Berlin in 1938, the wealthy Jewish businessman Otto Silbermann crams money into a suitcase, hoping to flee the country by train. But has he left it too late? And will his identity be exposed before he can cross the border? Ulrich Boschwitz wrote one of the few contemporary (though largely ignored) novels about Nazi persecution at just 23. He never published another, for in 1942 he went down with a British troopship.