Monday, January 24, 2011

icon - annemarie schwarzenbach

annemarie schwarzenbach und ihr mercedes mannheim, berlin by marianne breslauer, 1932

ca. 1930s

annemarie schwarzenbach am strand, san sebastian by marianne breslauer, 1933

**after much research i have finally found out the origins of this image....
it is not annemareie schwarzenbach but is lisa von cramm photographed by marianne breslauer in berlin, 1934. 

annemarie schwarzenbach, anfang 30er jahre by marianne breslauer

annemarie schwarzenbach in taschkurghan, afghanistan, october 1939

**and this is actually the photographer marianne breslauer.

she had the same effect on me as she had on everybody: this strange mixture of man and woman.  to me, she corresponded to my image of the angel gabriel in paradise; an angel, an archangel.  not at all like a living being, but like a work of art.         - marianne breslauer

annemarie schwarzenbach was born on may 23, 1908 in zurich, into one of the richest families in switzerland. from an early age she began to dress and act like a boy - a behavior that was not discouraged by her parents.  in 1931, at the age of 23,  she received her doctorate in history at the university of zurich and wrote her first book freunde um bernhard (bernhard's circle)

in 1932 she planned a car trip to persia with klaus & erika mann (whom she had befriended in 1930) and their childhood friend ricki hallgarten. the evening before the trip, ricki, suffering from depression, shot himself. in 1933 bohemian berlin disappeared with the nazi take-over.  tensions with her family increased as some of her family sympathized with the swiss fronts who had close ties with the nazis. her parents pressured her to renounce her friendship with the manns and this led her to attempt suicide, causing a scandal among her family and their conservative circle.

in 1932 and 1933 she traveled abroad with klaus mann to italy, france & scandanavia.  in 1933 she traveled with photographer marianne breslauer, to the pyrenees & then to persia. in 1935 she married french diplomat claude clarac, despite both their homosexuality. having known each other only a few weeks, it was a marriage of convenience for both. they moved to an isolated area outside tehran which led to her morphine addiction. she returned to switzerland and entered one of her most prolific times writing tod in persien (death in persia), das glückliche tal (the happy valley) and lorenz saladin: ein leben für die berge. in 1937 & 1938 her photographs documented the rise of fascism in europe.

in 1936 she traveled to new york with another photographer, barbara hamilton-wright. they would travel all over the south and in industrial areas around pittsburgh where she was profoundly affected.  in 1939 she traveled to afghanistan with the writer ella maillart in an effort to cure schwarzenbach of her morphine addiction. while in kabul world war II broke out and they separated - maillart left alone for india.  a scandalous love affair with the female archeologist hackin had left schwarzenbach forbidden to travel in the excavations of turkmenistan, which rendered her journey impossible.  in 1940 she returned to the united states where she became involved in an unhappy love affair which left her depressed and caused another suicide attempt and an internment in a psychiatric clinic. she was allowed to leave the clinic in 1941 on condition that she leave the united states. 

during this time she had met the up and coming writer, 23 year old carson mccullers, who fell madly in love with her. "she had a face that i knew would haunt me for the rest of my life," wrote mccullers. unfortunately, schwarzenbach did not feel the same way. they would remain friends and carson dedicated her next novel, reflections in a golden eye, to her.  annemarie was involved with the wife of a wealthy man, baronessa margot von opel as well as struggling with her feelings for erika mann. this led to another bout of depression and hospitalization.

she traveled back to switzerland in 1941 and then on to the belgian congo where she continued to write. on september 7, 1942 she suffered a devastating fall on her bicycle and fell into a coma for three days. she awoke to amnesia and died soon after on the 15th of november. after her death, her mother destroyed all her letters and diaries. a friend took care of her writings and photographs which were later archived in the swiss literature archive in bern.


  1. I love the stuff you find and put here. It's always interesting and generally beautiful. What else could you want from a style blog? And I love Iron and Wine too. Pop by some time.


  2. Hello! Are you sure that it is Annemarie Schwarzenbach on all of the enclosed photographs? I am her passionate fan for quite some time and I am sure that the woman sitting on top of the chair is not her, and I am not sure that the naked woman with the camera is her though hard to say for sure as we cannot see her face..

  3. it's always hard to research things on the internet because sooo many people just post things these days without checking....i wasn't 100% sure the chair photo was her (which is why i didn't title it) the nude was referenced several times but again, these days one can never be sure! she did live an incredible life & what a face!

  4. Thank you, candycane, for your response, and transatlantic regards from Bratislava, Slovakia, Europe.. She really did live an incredible life, and died even a more incredible death: she fell from a bicycle. And her face.. aaah.. no words to describe. I have never seen anything more beautiful. Rebeka

  5. The naked woman with a camera is Marianne Breslauer:
    you can also find the photo on Fotostiftung Schweiz
    I agree with Rebeka as for the beauty of Annemarie
    Regards from Poland :)

  6. it's so frustrating researching things online....there's so much misinformation that keeps getting spread. thanks! i'll make a note! thanks poland!!

  7. I'm so happy to be able to do anything for the memory of Annemarie Schwarzenbach. I'm her passionate fan too. I cannot wait for her two books to be printed in English this autumn, as my German is still not enough to read.

  8. i am making a movie on annemarie schwarzenbach, already shot/filmed, in editing now, i keep u posted but u can connect me on facebook malga kubiak, xx, m

  9. Candycane, thank you for the corrections, the notes.. Regards to Poland! I have the very same problem like you: my German is too poor to read and there is almost nothing in English by her or about her, not talking about things in Slovak or Czech. There is a part of her Lyrical Novella in English here:
    Malga, could you share more about the film you make?

  10. i am done with the movie annemarie schwarzenbach duende, premiere stockholm, november 19th 2011, some time later on vimeo / welcome

  11. fantastic missmessfilm! i look forward to seeing it! congratulations.

  12. Great stuff! You might be interested to know that two of Schwarzenbach's books ("All the Roads Are Open", about her Afghanistan journey, and "Lyric Novella") have just appeared in English, translated by myself and my colleague Lucy Renner Jones.

  13. Rebeka, if you still look up here - I have something more of Annemarie Schwarzenbach you would probably be able to read - you can write me: graubunden(at)

  14. Isabel Cole - of course - I was waiting for it :)
    The fragment linked by Rebeka was translated by you, I read it a long time ago already.

  15. I ordered unpatiently both of the books in preorder, read it and loved it! Thank you the translators! Also the additional articles were very interesting.

  16. She's beautiful and talented, despite her life experiences. Her relationship with others made her depression and vices worst.

  17. Hi, my name is S.C. Weiss. I am a filmmaker. And I am currently thinking about a Annemarie Schwarzenbach project. Do you know if there are any relatives of Annemarie Schwarzenbach who are still alive? Thank you very much for your help. (