About the book

In 1943, hidden by the Resistance in a French convent, Moriz Scheyer began drafting an account of his wartime experiences: a tense, moving, at times almost miraculous story of flight and persecution in Austria and France. As arts editor of Vienna’s principal newspaper before the German annexation of Austria, Scheyer had known the city’s great artists, including Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth and Arthur Schnitzler, and was himself an important literary journalist. In this book he brings his distinctive critical and emotional voice to bear on his own extraordinary experiences: Vienna at the Anschluss; Paris immediately before the war and under Nazi occupation; the ‘Exodus’; two periods of incarceration in French concentration camps; contact with the Resistance; a failed attempt at escape to Switzerland; and a dramatic rescue followed by clandestine life in a mental asylum run by Franciscan nuns. Completed in 1945, Scheyer’s memoir is remarkable not just for the riveting events that it recounts, but as a near-unique survivor’s perspective from that time.

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About the author

Moriz Scheyer (1886-1949) was a significant critic, essayist and travel writer, within the literary and cultural milieu of pre-war Vienna. As arts editor of the city’s main newspaper, Neues Wiener Tagblatt, from 1924 until 1938, he knew such figures as Gustav Mahler and Joseph Roth, and was a personal friend of Stefan Zweig and Bruno Walter. In his lifetime he published three books inspired by his travels in the Near East and South America, as well as three volumes of literary-historical essays. Scheyer called his memoir of his wartime experiences ‘A Survivor’, and seems to have sought its publication. After his death in 1949, however, his stepson destroyed the manuscript. Or thought he did. Recently ‘Scheyer’s grandsons discovered a carbon copy in his father’s attic. Asylum is Singer’s translation of the manuscript, to which he has added an epilogue on the people, events and context.

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P. N. Singer is a writer and translator, who works with classical languages (Greek and Latin) as well as German and Italian. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a Ph.D. in 1993, and has studied and lived in Italy, Germany and India. Alongside work as a literary translator, P. N. Singer has published on philosophy and history of medicine, with a particular specialism in classical Greek ethics and theories of the mind, and further interests in drama and performance practice. He currently holds a Research Fellowship at Birkbeck, University of London.

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An extraordinary rediscovered manuscript, written in hiding by a friend of Stefan Zweig, which evokes the realities of the Holocaust and the French Occupation more vividly than almost anything I’ve read. - Jonathan Coe

“Try to understand me,” Moriz Scheyer begs the future readers of his memoir in 1944. And we do, leaving it drained, but exhilarated by the description of how he roamed an unfriendly Europe, stateless. With the publication of this mesmerizing book, his search for asylum might just be over. - Ronald C. Rosbottom, Amherst College, Author, When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light under German Occupation, 1940-1944

‘fresh and urgent’, - Nicholas Shakespeare, The Telegraph

‘Vividly underscores the power of ordinary human kindness in the face of supreme evil.’ - Thomas Ertman, New York University, author of Birth of the Leviathan

Review In the Guardian Review In the Telegraph Review In the Times of Israel Review by Matt Sturrock in The Times Literary Supplement Review in The Jewish Chronicle Review in Wiener Zeitung

More on the family history

Life and Memories of Konrad Singer stepson of Moriz Scheyer

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