A novel that's made its way onto a UK bestseller list has finally found its place in the sun, eight decades after a mostly tepid reaction to its first printing. The Passenger, written by Germany's Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz in 1938, tells the story of Jewish businessman Otto Silbermann trying to escape Nazi Germany with his wife. The book bears similarities to Boschwitz's own life, as he'd fled Germany and the Nazi regime three years before he penned his novel, per the BBC. The Passenger had a limited run in both Britain and the United States in 1939 and 1940, but it didn't capture the public's attention and went out of print. Boschwitz, meanwhile, had made his way to the UK with his mother—after brief stays in Scandinavia, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg—but after the war broke out in 1939, the two were arrested as enemy aliens, and Boschwitz was sent to an internment camp in Australia.
In 1942, he was finally allowed to come back to England, but a German U-boat torpedoed the ship he was on, killing him and 361 other passengers and crew members, per the Guardian. He was 27. The Times of London notes Boschwitz's original manuscript turned up in an archive in Frankfurt, Germany, a few years ago, and a revised version was created using Boschwitz's own notes. It was published in German in 2018 and has since been printed in 20 other languages, and it's now made the Sunday Times' top 10 list for hardback fiction. "[I] knew that this was an important novel," Peter Graf, an editor who worked on the revision, tells the BBC. "The Passenger is a gripping novel that plunges the reader into the gloom of Nazi Germany as the darkness was descending," the Guardian notes. "It deserved to be read when it was written. It certainly deserves to be read now." (Read more novel stories.)