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The Same Dust, The Same Wind How does one do justice to a woman who drove a Ford across the Hindu Kush, yet died in a fall from her bicycle near her home in Switzerland at the age of thirty-four? Annemarie Schwarzenbach is a European cult figure: journalist, noveUst, antifascist, archaeologist, drug addict, world traveler. It is her travel writing—a significant part of her oeuvre—that best illuminates her complex, multifaceted personality. Her journey to Afghanistan with EUa Maillart from 1939 to 1940 is one of her life's most telling episodes , an ambitious, fruitful failure. Maillart's account of the journey, The Cruel Way (London, 1947), has long been considered a classic of travel Uterature. Sadly, though, Schwarzenbach's life and work remain virtually unknown to the English-speaking world, since at the insistence of Schwarzenbach's mother, Renée, Schwarzenbach was fictionalized in the narrative as "Christina." By insisting that Annemarie be transformed into "Christina," Renée Schwarzenbach was merely having the last word in a protracted power strugglebetweentheSchwarzenbachfamilyand itsblacksheep. Annemarie Schwarzenbach was born on May 23, 1908, into one of Switzerland's wealthiest and most conservative industriaUst famuies. Renée was the dominant figure in the family. As a child she had wished to be a boy, and as a mother she transferred this wish to her favorite daughter, Annemarie. She spoke of her chüd playfuUy as her "page" and into Annemarie's teen years liked to dress her daughter as a boy. Annemarie studied history in Zurich and Paris, receiving her doctorate in 1931, at the age of twenty-three. That same year her first novel was published. Despite all her talents and privileges, her life was filled with difficulties. She felt attracted to women early on, and with her androgynous beauty—she had "the face of an inconsolable angel," according to Nobel laureate Roger Martin du Gard—she was soon embroiled in scandalous affairs. No one was more scandalized than the mother who had unconsciously encouraged her daughter's homosexuality. Schwarzenbach remained dependent on her mother all her life, both financially and emotionally, and despite her frequent rebellions Renée never cut off her often manipulative support. Schwarzenbach met Klaus and Erika Mann when she was twentytwo . Their father, Thomas Mann, mentions her more than sixty times in The Missouri Review · 89 his diaries between 1933 and 1940. The Mann siblings, both gay writers, introduced her to an environment in which she could develop freely. But they also introduced her, directly or indirectly, to drugs; addiction haunted Schwarzenbach for the rest ofher life. Her Ufelong relationship with the Mann siblings was often rocky, due to Schwarzenbach's emotional instabiUty and her unrequited passion for Erika Mann. After Hitler's rise to power the Mann siblings were leading figures in the Uterary and antifascist exUe scene, and Schwarzenbach often sponsored their initiatives. Schwarzenbach has sometimes been portrayed as a dedicated antifascist resistance fighter. She certainly supported the cause but did not entirely feel comfortable in the role of hero. Her constant struggle with depression made it difficult for her to commit herseU fuUy. Renée took great exception to Annemarie's friendship with the Manns. In November 1934 the conflict came to a head: the Pfeffermühle, Erika Mann's legendary political cabaret in Zurich, was disrupted by gangs of profascist rowdies and ultimately forced to close. The Manns suspected Renée's involvement (their suspicions are now considered unfounded) and took Annemarie to task for it. At the time of the scandal , Annemarie had been on an archaeological expedition in Persia. Immediately upon her return she took up the matter with her family and openly expressed her support for the antifascists. Her relationship with the Manns suffered nonetheless. Under the strain of this conflict Schwarzenbach attempted suicide in January 1935. That April she traveled to Persia to marry, against her parents' will, the gay French diplomat Claude Clarac, whom she had met the previous year in Persia. In October 1936 she accepted the invitation of her friend and sometime lover Barbara Hamilton-Wright to travel to America, where Erika Mann was working on the American debut of the Pfeffermühle. Schwarzenbach's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 89-94
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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