WESTWARD HO! (1940) 1
Translated and introduced by Padraig Rooney
1 Translation of Nach Westen, first published in National-Zeitung, 21 May 1940. Typescript dated 9 May 1940.
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, then met again briefly in India from where Schwarzenbach travelled back by steamship to Genoa. War had broken out; she was restless 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.
Annemarie Schwarzenbach (1908-1942) was a Swiss writer and photographer who travelled to Persia, Afghanistan, the United States and West Africa, as well as extensively in Europe, during her short life. Her fiction and travel accounts were rediscovered by a new generation of readers in the nineteen-eighties. Her work has been translated into French, Italian and Spanish, but not yet published in English.
Padraig Rooney is an Irish writer resident in Switzerland since 2002. The Gilded Chalet: Off-piste in Literary Switzerland (2015) was described by Edmund White as “a superbly amusing guide to all the writers who’ve been drawn to or emerged from Switzerland.” He has translated the American journalism of Annemarie Schwarzenbach into English and is completing her biography.