When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, the cultural freedom and political pluralism that had characterised the Weimar Republic was summarily destroyed. Many artists and intellectuals had no choice but to leave Germany. For Schwarzenbach, it was the perfect time to embark on journeys of adventure and self-discovery, attesting to Walter Benjamin’s observation that “travel questions our bourgeois habits: it is a conscious or unconscious way of performing an inner revolution”. And so she travelled—to Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and beyond—a part of the world that more or less corresponds to the list of countries targeted by travel bans in our own time.
Annemarie Schwarzenbach writing in her notepad on a Roman column, Sant Cugat, Spain, 1933. Photographed by Marianne Breslauer. Marianne Breslauer's photograph is displayed with the kind permission of the Fotostiftung Schweiz. (Swiss Literary Archives)