In 1933, after arrest by the Gestapo having written about the dangers of Nazism, Anna Seghers fled her home in Germany for Paris, and later, following the 1940 Nazi invasion of northern France, to Marseille. Aided by Varian Fry in 1941, she and her family fled Marseille for Mexico aboard the Paul Lemerle together with her husband and two children. Notable fellow passengers included Victor Serge and his son, the surrealist André Breton, and the eminent anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss. They were joined by a further 215 people. Transit is a semi-autobiographical novel, a modernist bildungsroman written by Seghers exploring global events of the 1930s, published in 1942, and later adapted for the screen in 2018 by Christian Petzold.
Seidler hatte der Mann geheißen, dessen schlechterer Schein für mich der bessere war, er war bei der Abstimmung aus der Saar nach dem Elsass eingewandert.
Netty Reiling had evaded Gestapo agents – searching for Anna Seghers – before executing a second identity manoeuvre, mirroring her protagonist who concludes that, ‘Seidler was the name of the man whose second-best [refugee] certificate ended up being a better one for me.’ Seghers boarded the Paul Lemerle and fled Europe using her husband’s surname, Radvanzi.
The fate of lives seemed to hinge on word of mouth, a few thousand francs, and propitious timing.
Refugees were required to pay the French government a deposit of between 10,000 and 25,000 francs to leave Marseille for Martinique, whilst further levies were due on arrival in the French Caribbean itself, plus the cost of entry visas for the Americas. As Eric Jennings explains, ‘life in Marseille in 1940–41 revolved around endless queues at consulates, months of anguish over visa procedures, and constant rumours about boat departures and exit lines.’ In late May 1941, the Peyrouton Plan – ‘at once a deportation and a rescue’ – collapsed.
This city is a time tunnel, through which the wind has always been blowing, with clouds of dust and crowds of people swirling before it. The same gossip has been exchanged around the harbour–which opens onto a sea which was once considered to be the uterine center of the earth–since the time of the Romans, Greeks, or Phoenicians, while the same food has been encountered for all those centuries.
As Minayo Nasiali explains, the migratory flow which has formed, and reformed Marseille has shifted over the years, but Marseille’s development has centred the Vieux Port. The area north and east of the Vieux Port – including Le Panier and Belsunce – developed organically, the architecture working with the topography and forming narrow streets, level changes, steps, staircases and dense, medium-rise building blocks. Marseille undertook a programme of physical reconstruction and enjoyed a revival of economic activities through the Glorious Thirty (1945-1975), drawing on workers were recruited from Algeria and other colonized North African countries through a guest-worker scheme which ran until 1973. No housing was provided for the workers and their families. Informal, Algerian bidonvilles emerged to the north of the city, reinforcing the colonial developments of the nineteenth century, proximate to industrial employment and connected with transport network. In Seghers’ novel we learn this geographic division predates the war’s conclusion and the guest-worker programme in the city. Seghers explains simply, ‘The rich had all gone south.’ Contemporary Marseille sees the ethnic French living on one side of La Canebière, and the North African community on the other side. The street maintains the colonial divide.
Matthew Carr suggests borderlands lie on, ‘the periphery and margins of nations, cultures and civilizations,’ observing ‘linguistic, religious and ethnic categories merge.’ In the film, Petzold reveals exchange and merger in social space. Georg speaks French with a young boy, Driss, who understands Georg’s muttersprache (mother tongue). The pair slip between German and French languages in song and spoken word, and play football together in the communal space of Driss’ apartment building in the north of Marseille. For Margarete Landwehr, the pizzeria oven of the Mont Vertoux in Seghers’ novel, ‘serves as a symbol of hearth, stability, and community where people tell their stories, satisfying her protagonist’s search for a secure place.’ The Mont Vertoux of the film functions somewhat differently, forming a transitional space, within which the temporality of transit plays out.
Die Pizza ist doch ein sonderbares Gebäck. Rund und bunt wie eine Torte.
The novel’s protagonist remarks upon the surprise of the savoury food, describing pizza’s presentation as ‘Rund und bunt wie eine Torte’ (round and colourful as a cake). An Italian translation of Greek pitta, pizza represents an exchange across time and space, a dialectic image formed between the homelands of Marseille’s Greek and Italian immigrant in Marseille’s spaces of transit. The Mont Vertoux of the film lies a moment’s walk off La Canebière, at 22 Boulevard Longchamp (Fig. 1), interior shot and reverse-shot serving to spatialise the pizzeria and establish the spatial, narrative agency of Georg (Franz Rogowski) and Marie (Paula Beer) through their exchange of glances, subtle re-positioning of hands atop the table, and softening body language over time.
(Social) space is a (social) product.
The Mont Vertoux is a porous space, a space within which cultural exchange plays out over the surface of the pizza. Seghers’ novel explores spatial transit – national, urban, interior – whilst Petzold’s film explores temporal transit, the director remarking upon the spaces of transit within which, ‘Like the boarding gate at an airport: you hand over your luggage, but you haven’t even gone anywhere yet […] a transit zone between the past and present.’ Transit is a narrative reconstruction of the refugees’ lived experience amid the debris of history. Socio-cultural-linguistic exchange plays out across these porous spaces in novel film, and place though the embodiment of the protagonists’ – and site-writers’ – space over time. In novel and film, migration plays out in space, architecture, and territory, through spatio-temporal registers.
 Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote Tristes Tropiques in 1955, chronicling a detailed account of the crossing aboard the Paul Lemerle, and its refugee passengers, drawing what Eric Jennings describes as ‘remarkable portraits of Breton and Serge in particular.’ See Eric Jennings, ‘Last Exit from Vichy France: The Martinique Escape Route and the Ambiguities of Emigration,’ The Journal of Modern History, v.74, n.2 (June, 2002), pp. 289-324, (p. 309).
 As Eric Jennings explains, citing the American consul in Martinique, Marcel Malige, refugees in 1941 were being sent to camps outside Fort-de-France, ‘in order to prevent overcrowding of the city.’ This citation informs the picture of vast refugee numbers fleeing Marseille on the Martinique route at this time. See Eric Jennings, ‘Last Exit from Vichy France: The Martinique Escape Route and the Ambiguities of Emigration,’ The Journal of Modern History, v.74, n.2 (June, 2002), pp. 289-324, (p. 300).
 Bildungsroman is a modernist genre exploring narratives of moral growth and education.
 Netty Reiling (1900–1983) was born in Mainz, Germany into an upper-middle-class Jewish family, completing a doctorate in Art History at the University of Heidelberg in 1924 before marrying Laszo Radvanzi the following year, and joining the Communist Party in 1928 and adopting the writer’s pseudonym, Anna Seghers. Anna Seghers returned to Germany after World War II, moving to the Soviet Sector of East Berlin in 1947 where she died in 1983. See Anna Seghers, Transit, English edn, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo, (New York: The New York Review of Books, 2013), p. i.
 Anna Seghers, Transit: Roman, German edn (Berlin: Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag, 2020), p. 55.
 Anna Seghers, Transit, English edn, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo, introduction by Peter Conrad, afterword by Heinrich Böll, (New York: The New York Review of Books, 2013), p. 33.
 As Simon Kitson explains, ‘The Police forces of each town in France were the responsibility of local mayors. Cities, such as Marseille used a Police d’Etat rather than a municipal force.’ Anna Seghers was able to evade the police in Marseille in this second identity manoeuvre thanks to the slippage between national and regional law enforcement, institution and individual agency. Kitson notes, citing Albert J Reiss, ‘post-war innovations such as the walkie-talkie which encourage Police officers to seek clarification from a central office reduce the autonomy of the officer on the beat making him or her more controllable by the institution.’ See Christian Zehl Romero, Anna Seghers (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1993), p.26.; Simon Kitson, ‘A Note on the Organisation of the Police,’ in Police and Politics in Marseille, 1936-1945 (Leiden: Brill, 2014), p. XVII; p. XVIII; Albert J Reiss, Police and Public, New Haven, 1971, p 125.
 Eric Jennings, ‘Last Exit from Vichy France: The Martinique Escape Route and the Ambiguities of Emigration,’ The Journal of Modern History, v.74, n.2 (June, 2002), pp. 289-324, (p. 319).
 Ibid., (p. 308), and citation of Centrede Documentation Juive Contemporaine, Paris, CCX VII-15, “Rapport d’activite ́ de la HICEM-France pour 1941,” p. 24.
 Eric Jennings, ‘Last Exit from Vichy France: The Martinique Escape Route and the Ambiguities of Emigration,’ The Journal of Modern History, v.74, n.2 (June, 2002), pp. 289-324, (p. 306).
 For Jennings, the Plan, ‘and its time-limited window of opportunity,’ highlighted the question of ‘continuity or rupture’ between the Third Republic and Vichy France. ‘American resistance to immigration, colonial Pétainists’ opposition to refugee arrivals, and Anglo-American concerns over Vichy’s purported neutrality’ are oft-cited as the prime factors. Ibid., (pp. 301-308).
 Peter Conrad, in the introduction to Anna Seghers’ Transit, English edn, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo, afterword by Heinrich Böll, (New York: The New York Review of Books, 2013), p. ix.
 Minayo Nasiali, Native to the Republic: Empire, Social Citizenship, and Everyday Life in Marseille since 1945 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016), p. 12.
 See Danièle Voldman, La reconstruction des villes françaises de 1940 à 1954: Histoire d’une politique (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1997); James A. Huston, Across the Face of France: Liberation and Recovery, 1944–63 (Lafayette, Ind.: Pur- due University, 1984); Andrew Shennan, Rethinking France: Plans for Renewal, 1940–1946 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
 Marc Angélil, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Julian Schubert, Elena Schütz, and Leonard Streich, eds., Migrant Marseille: Architectures of Social Segregation and Urban Inclusivity (Berlin: Ruby Press, 2020), p. 35.
 The Paris-Lyon-Marseille railway, constructed in stages between 1847 and 1856, created the infrastructure, and national governance came to establish the city as the primary port for colonial trade and industry. Marseille’s economy expanded rapidly with the railway, industries forming around sugar, soap and tile trade, and the businesses drew workers from colonized Algeria. At the outbreak of World War I, French authorities began recruiting workers from the colonies. Many of the Italian population were returning home to serve. Ethnic diversification in the migratory flows in the inter-war years (1928-1941): Russians fleeing the October Revolution, Armenians escaping genocide, Spaniards leaving Franco's dictatorship, all in search of safety and employment. To cope with the humanitarian emergency, the municipality set up transit camps and barracks that could house hundreds. Meanwhile, traders built lavish and expansive homes in the southern district, on the other side of La Canebière, for the bourgeoisie, separated from the industrial north. See Marc Angélil, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Julian Schubert, Elena Schütz, and Leonard Streich, eds., Migrant Marseille: Architectures of Social Segregation and Urban Inclusivity (Berlin: Ruby Press, 2020), pp. 31-34.
 The Rough Guide to Provence & the Côte d’Azur (London: Penguin Books, 2007), p. 61.
 Matthew Carr, Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent, First edn (London: Hurst and Company, 2012), p. 225.
 For Henri Lefebvre, there are three intersecting types of space: spatial practice (la practique spatiale); representations of space (les répresentations de l’espace); spaces of representation (les espaces de représentation). As Iain Borden observes, the production of space sees the perceived, conceived, and lived interact in the everyday and the urban, the codified, and the liberatory, suggesting ‘the body produces space outward from itself’ through embodiment. See Iain Borden, ‘Beyond Space: the Ideas of Henri Lefebvre in Relation to Architecture and Cities,’ in Journal of Chinese Urban Science, v.3 n.1 (2012), pp. 156-193, (pp. 168).
 Margarete J. Landwehr, ‘Empathy and Community in the Age of Refugees: Petzold’s Radical Translation of Seghers’ Transit,’ in Arts 9, n.4: 118 (November, 2020), p.10.
 Anna Seghers, Transit: Roman, German edn (Berlin: Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag, 2020), p. 6.
 Anna Seghers, Transit, English edn, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo, introduction by Peter Conrad, afterword by Heinrich Böll, (New York: The New York Review of Books, 2013), pp. 3-4.
 Henri Lefebvre acknowledges the tautology in this statement; see Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001), p. 26.
 Music Box Films, ‘Interview with Christian Petzold,’ Transit: Press Notes (2018) <https://www.musicboxfilms.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/TRANSITPressNotes.pdf> [accessed 1 June 2021], p. 3.
Copyright of image: © Toby Blackman
The Longchamp Palace, 22 Boulevard Longchamp (2021), Author own photograph.