Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, November 15, 2013

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig 1942

I am really glad I decided to once again participate in 
German Literature Month November 2013.  I thank Caroline and Lizzy for hosting this great reading event.

So far I have read and posted on these works, all but Kafka are new to me writers. 
The Tin Drum-by Gunther Grass
"The Judgement" by Franz Kafka
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque -very powerful war novel 
"A Letter from an Unknown Woman" by Stefan Zweig. 
The Death of the Adversary by Hans Klein - a work of genius
"The Job Application" by Robert Walser 
Chess Game by Stefan Zweig-I will read much more of his work
"The Battle of Sempach" by Robert Walser
I have also listed to podcasts of "Basta" and "Frau Wilkes" by Robert Walser
The March of Radetsky by Joseph Roth I hope to read all his work

Memoirs of an Anti-Semite by Gregor von Rezzori amazing work of art.

"Flypaper" by Robert Musil

"Mendel the Bibliophile" by Stefan Zweig - I totally love this story.

"The Dead are Silent" by Arthur Schnitzler an entertaining work from 1907

"There Will Be Action" by Heinrich Boll a very good short story by Nobel Prize Winner

Transit by Anne Seghars 1942 very much worth reading

There was a time when Stefan Zweig was the most translated German language author. So far I have read and posted on two of his marvelous short stories and a suburb short novel, Chess Game.  Zweig is now an author that I have added on to my read as much as I can list.  I only E Read and fortunately a lot of his work is available in Kindle Editions. 

I did a bit of research on Stefan Zweig to see how his reputation stands now.  Many of his books and stories have been recently brought back in print in English by Pushkin Press and The New York Review of Books so I am assuming there is a strong interest in his work.  I found a bizarre review in The Guardian that called all of his work, including his suucide note, "putrid".  Others, many more, call him one of the great European writers of the 20th century.  I have so far read his Chess Game and "A Letter from an Unknown Woman" and a story I am crazy about "Mendel the Bibliophile".  Zweig, who I am just getting to know, is a chronicler of a culture, one he passionately loved, in decline.  According to Zweig in The World of Yesterday Vienna was the perfect home for Jews in Europe.  Many, including his family, grew truly rich.  The pattern, as Zweig tells us he exemplified, was for one generation to make money, another to build on it and a third to have no interest in commerce but seek excellence in the arts, literature, academia or in a life supremely well lived. 

This is an autobiographical work but it is not a "tell it all" book.  It is primarily Zweig's reflections on the many great writers and artists he was acquainted with.  Zweig was very deeply, as was the culture he came from, into the reading life.  He loved Rilke and worshipped Goethe.  His chapter on Paris really made me wish I could time travel.  His accounts of Viennese cafe society make us mourn for its passing.  

The World of Yesterday is an elegy to a culture destroyed by the worst impulses of man as embodied in the Nazis.  Zweig left Europe and moved to Brazil.  

As one reads this book you are almost forced to try to understand why shortly after he submitted it to his publisher, he and his beloved wife both committed suicide.  It is tempting to read the book as a suicide note and maybe there is truth in that.  He was deeply hurt by the destruction of the wonderful culture of the Austrian Jewish community by the Germans and their broader destruction of the glory of European culture.   Maybe he could not go on in a world so full of hate.  

If you search, you will find spiteful rude posts on this book. All I can say is "shame on those who say such things".  

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