Unexpected Routes

Refugee Writers in Mexico

Unexpected Routes chronicles the refugee journeys of six writers whose lives were upended by fascism in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and during World War II: Cuban-born Spanish writer Silvia Mistral, German-born Spanish writer Max Aub, German writer Anna Seghers, German author Ruth Rewald, Swiss-born political activist, photographer, and ethnographer Gertrude Duby, and Czech writer and journalist Egon Erwin Kisch.

Tabea Alexa Linhard (Photo: Washington University)

While these six writers came from different backgrounds, wrote in different languages and enjoyed very different levels of recognition in their lifetimes and posthumously, they all made sense of their forced displacement in works that reveal their conflicted relationships with the people and places they encountered in transit as well as in Mexico, the country in which they all eventually found asylum.

The literary output of these six brilliant, prolific but also flawed individuals reflects the most salient contradictions of what it meant to escape from fascist occupied Europe. In a study that bridges history, literary studies and refugee studies, Tabea Alexa Linhard draws connections between colonialism, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II and the Holocaust to shed light on the histories and literatures of exile and migration, drawing connections to today’s refugee crisis and asking larger questions around the notions of belonging, longing and the lived experience of exile.


“Tabea Alexa Linhard movingly tells the stories of six mid-century antifascist writers and artists who were lucky enough to escape death through circuitous routes of exile. Unexpected Routes helps us understand the challenges these exiles faced, and how their views of their new surroundings were often marked by a colonial violence they weren’t always able to acknowledge.” — Sebastiaan Faber, Oberlin College

“With a profound command of Spanish, German and Mexican histories and letters, Tabea Alexa Linhard reconfigures the global tragic moment by researching and examining the lives and works of apparently unrelated authors, here revealed as occupants of a common orphanhood—beyond narrow national and linguistic frames.” — Mauricio Tenorio, The University of Chicago

“This striking book reveals entangled histories of displaced Europeans seeking refuge in Latin America, highlighting intersections of colonialism, totalitarianism and forced migration. Unexpected Routes profoundly realigns the research and writing on exile literature.” — Doerte Bischoff, University of Hamburg

About the author

Tabea Alexa Linhard is director of the global studies program and professor of Spanish and comparative literature, all in Arts & Sciences, at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research centers on Spanish and Mexican literature and cultural studies, Mediterranean studies, Jewish diaspora, migration and spatial humanities.

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