Strange Bird The Albatross Press and the Third Reich Michele K. Troy

New Directions in Narrative History
Publication date:
04 Apr 2017
Yale University Press
440 pages: 235 x 156 x 29mm
30 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

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The first book about the Albatross Press, a Penguin precursor that entered into an uneasy relationship with the Nazi regime to keep Anglo-American literature alive under fascism

The Albatross Press was, from its beginnings in 1932, a “strange bird”: a cultural outsider to the Third Reich but an economic insider. It was funded by British-Jewish interests. Its director was rumored to work for British intelligence. A precursor to Penguin, it distributed both middlebrow fiction and works by edgier modernist authors such as D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and Ernest Hemingway to eager continental readers. Yet Albatross printed and sold its paperbacks in English from the heart of Hitler’s Reich.

In her original and skillfully researched history, Michele K. Troy reveals how the Nazi regime tolerated Albatross—for both economic and propaganda gains—and how Albatross exploited its insider position to keep Anglo-American books alive under fascism. In so doing, Troy exposes the contradictions in Nazi censorship while offering an engaging detective story, a history, a nuanced analysis of men and motives, and a cautionary tale.

Michele K. Troy is professor of English at Hillyer College at the University of Hartford. She studies Anglo-American literary modernism in continental Europe in the decades between the two world wars.

“For one who has, since boyhood, regarded the second-hand bookshop as a paradise of total immersion, it is quite shocking to discover Albatross…Troy’s account is a painstaking act of exhumation… she sticks tenaciously to her unique dig, presenting us with a remarkable reconstruction.”—Duncan Fallowell, Spectator

Strange Bird is intensely researched and eminently readable--there’s even a harrowing escape story at its center. The lingering mystery of our principal, German-born Englishman John Holroyd-Reece, who may have been a spy, adds an element of intrigue as well. Troy’s book is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in publishing history, World War II, or modern Anglo-American literature.”
—Stephen Darori, Israel Book Review   

“A cuckoo in the literary Nazi nest… Strange Bird is a story of art and business, but, given its ominous setting in Auden’s ‘low dishonest decade’ it is a story of war and politics too.”—Robert Eaglestone, THES

“Beautifully written, more like a novel in places, but the story the author has uncovered is almost too implausible for the plot of the novel . . . This is part history, part biography, part novel, part academic treatise, part detective story, part bibliographical research, but above all it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.”—Paperback Revolution

“Troy narrates their stories with verve and considerable literary skill, practising narrative history in the literal sense, borrowing tropes and strategies from detective fiction.”— Anna Katharina Schaffner, TLS

Strange Bird reads like a highbrow thriller, where editors are double agents and all the great modern authors put in cameo appearances. That, along with Michele Troy’s engaging and personal style of writing, makes this book a page-turner.”—Jonathan Rose, author of The Literary Churchill

"Strange Bird, a scholarly book that reads like an engrossing spy novel, vividly re-creates the strangeness of the book trade during the Third Reich and is one of the most original books on the publishing industry that's appeared in years."—Greg Barnhisel, Duquesne University

"Thoroughly researched and compellingly written, this fascinating microhistory of a German-based English-language publisher adds depth and subtlety to our understanding of the cultural policy of the Third Reich."—Alan E. Steinweis, University of Vermont

"A wonderfully fine-grained narrative history of publishers, books, and readers across and within borders amid the constraint and chaos of Nazi-occupied Europe. Troy has dug deeply into the archives and the historical literature to document the cynical policy of Goebbels not only to censor but to demonstrate 'civilized' German 'tolerance' to the world."—Geoffrey Cocks, Albion College

"This beautifully crafted book is a detective novel and psychological portrait rolled into one. Troy's in-depth archival research reveals her protagonists' aspirations, and the web of political intrigues and economic imperatives in which they became entangled."—Adriaan van der Weel, Universiteit Leiden