TALK ABOUT TRANSATLANTIC (2023)
Marseille, 1940. Varian Fry, a journalist from New York, directs the on-site operations of the American relief organization Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) in the French harbor city that increasingly becomes destination for those fleeing Nazi Germany and occupied parts of France. ERC’s goal: to aid persecuted anti-Nazi artists and intellectuals in escaping France and emigrating to the US. Among people supporting Fry’s efforts are future economist Albert O. Hirschman and American heiress Mary Jayne Gold; among his clients – Marc Chagall, André Breton, Max Ernst, Walter Mehring, Walter Benjamin, and Hannah Arendt. Together with his team, Fry uses any means at his disposal, legal and illegal, in order to fulfil his mandate, which leads both to clashes with Vichy authorities and tensions with the US State Department. Briefly sketched, this is the historical backdrop against which Transatlantic, inspired by Julie Orringer’s novel The Flight Portfolio (2019), unfolds. Transatlantic is not only the title of the Netflix mini-series, released in 2023; arguably, it is also the core of its vision. »We have a story that demands us to work together,« says one member of the team behind the show. Accordingly, Transatlantic assembles an international and, well, transatlantic team in order to create a multilingual TV series that defies categorizations. Keeping the general outline of the historical events intact, the show invents large parts of its story, especially when it comes to the characters’ emotional lives and their interpersonal relationships. Maintaining a constant moral tension interlaced with humor and romance, Transatlantic, in the words of its cast member Cory Michael Smith, attempts »to show the extraordinary potential of humanity, in its joys and its absolute horror.« At the same time, it seeks to draw attention to lesser known parts of history as well as to draw parallels to the contemporary moment. This talk will explore these and other aspects of the show.
Dr. Svetlana Seibel is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in North American Literary and Cultural Studies at Saarland University, Germany. She completed her dissertation on Indigenous popular culture as a member of the DFG-funded International Research Training Group »Diversity: Mediating Difference in Transcultural Spaces«. Her work has been published in journals such as Transmotion, Studies in Canadian Literature, and Recherches Germaniques, as well as in various edited collections. Her current research project focuses on temporality and classicism in American women’s writing.
D 2023, Creators: Anna Winger, Daniel Hendler, Referentin: Dr. Svetlana Seibel, UdS
Nordamerikanische Literatur und Kulturwissenschaften, Universität des Saarlandes,
Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut Saarbrücken e. V.,
VHS des Regionalverbandes