Martyn Bedford

Coming of Age

A Sea Change


The Maia Press 197pp £8.99 order from our bookshop

As he nears the end of his life, Karl Frank writes an account of his coming-of-age as a legacy to his grandchildren so that a part of his family’s history will be preserved. ‘This is the story of how I became a man,’ he tells them. In particular, it is the tale of a fifteen-year-old boy caught up in one of the remarkable episodes of the Jewish exodus from Nazi Germany. In May 1939, the SS St Louis left Hamburg for Havana carrying 900 refugee asylum-seekers. During their weeks at sea, they were turned away by Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the USA, and had to sail back across the Atlantic to a Europe on the cusp of war. In fear of enforced return to Germany, the refugees were finally taken in by Belgium, the Netherlands and France, only for many to perish under the subsequent Nazi occupation. The 200 or so admitted into Britain were the lucky ones. Michael Arditti places his fictional hero among them; more than six decades later, retired from an Oxford professorship, Karl Frank (formerly Frankel-Hirsch) sets about recording his time on the St Louis.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,