Madame de Prie 1698 to 1727
My favorite works by Zweig are first "Mendel the Bibliophile", then Chess, and The Post Office Girl. Today I am enthusiastically adding "Twilight" to this list.
There are still several days left in German Literature Month IV. Lots of time left to participate. There are already over a hundred posts, reading through them is much like a fine class in German literature at a top academy.
Works I have so far read for German Literature Month 2014
1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
2. Gertrude by Hermann Hesse
3. "Diary of a School Boy" by Robert Walser (no post)
4. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
5. Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig 1925
6. Life Goes On by Hans Keilson
7. Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson
8. "The Wall" by Jurek Becker
9. "Romeo" by Jurek Becker
10. "The Invisible City" by Jurek Becker.
11. Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard
12. "Dostoevsky's Idiot" by Robert Walser
13. "French Newspapers" by Robert Wasler
14. Jakob the Lier by Jurek Becker
15. The Trial by Franz Kafka 1915,
16. "The Seamstress" by Rainer Maria Rilke 1894
17. "The Experiement or the Victory of Children" by Unica Zürn 1950
18. "The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig. 1924
19. "Saint Cecilia or the Power of Music" by Heinrich von Kleist 1810
20. Amok by Stefan Zweig 1923
21. Concrete 1982
22. "Kleist in Thun" by Robert Walser 1913
23. "Incident at Lake Geneva" by Stefan Zweig (1924)
24. "The Governess" by Stefan Zweig 1927
25. "The Sandman" by E. T. A. Hoffmann 1817
26. "The Secrets of the Princess of Kagran" by Ingeborg Bachmann 1971
27. "Twilight" by Stefan Zweig 1928
One of my goals for GL IV was to read a number of short stories by Stefan Zweig in the Pushkin Press edition of The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig. So far this month I have read six of his short stories. Zweig was a highly regarded history, his biography of Marie Antoinette was a best seller. Zweig has rightly been praised for the acuity of his portrayal of the pyches of women in turmoil.
"Twilight" focuses on Madame de Prie (1698 to 1727), daughter of a finance minister of France and at one time mistress to King Louis XV. She was highly influential in deciding royal appointments and arranged the marriage of the King to a dynastastically appropriate Nobel woman. When she fell from favor with the King, she was sent into exhile on her estate. She remained incredibly wealthy though inspite of her many pleas she was never allowed to return to the court. The angst generated by this loss of power and adulation drove her to suicide by poison at 29. Zweig gets the facts exactly right in his story but it probably took him longer than a few minutes on Wikepedia.
The greatness of this story lies in how Zweig lets us see how devastated Madame de Prie was by her fall. She comes across as a throughly nasty, very self centered, unfeeling a cruel woman. Zweig perfectly depicts the stages of her grief. We see her try to be friends with servant girls, and become enraged when she discovers no one at court even mentions her. She takes a young country man as a lover, when she is through with him he gives him a letter to present to a duke in Paris naming the young man to office. The young man rushes to Paris not knowing there is no such person. I am leaving out a lot of the wonderful details of the story.
The close of the story in which Zweig graphically describes her suicude by poison sent chills through me.
Mel von ü