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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"The Star Above the Forest" by Stefan Zweig (1924?)

The schedule and guidelines for participation are on the event webpage.  Just reading the  posts of all the other participants is tremendously informative. There is an interesting contest or two and some prizes to be won.  One of the tasks participants are charged with is reading a work first published in 2014 and this collection qualifies.  

I am very happy to be once again participating in German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.   Events like this are one of the great things about being part of the international book blog community.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into a month long event and I offer my thanks to Lizzy and Caroline

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

Stefan Zweig (1881 to 1942, Austria) is one of my favorite writers, once he was Europe's most popular authors.  He has been regaining readership in the last few years through new translations published by Pushkin Press and The New York Review of Books and through the Wes Anderson movie The Grand Hotel based partially on the writings  of Zweig.

"The Star of the Forest" is a tale about the erotic obsession of a waiter at a fancy resort for a baroness whom he is serving during her stay at the resort.  Compleletly predictably she is very beautiful and she is always elegantly betoiletting as befits her status.  He imagines himself as totally in love with her.  When he realizes she is going back to Vienna, he stations himself in the path of her train and throws himself in front of the locomotive.  

To me this is a story offensive in several ways.   It suggests the social rank of the woman and her looks justify the absurd passion.  To me it seems a rich man's fantasy about a waiter's love for a wealthy woman based on pure fantasy, a woman he knows nothing about. We cannot imagine this story with the center of his erotic fixation an unattractive scullion.
Here is what happens when he jumps under the train

"Suddenly she lowered her book with limp fingers. She herself did not know why. Some secret feeling was tearing at her. She felt a dull but painful pressure. A sudden sense of constriction that she couldn’t explain clutched her heart. She thought she would choke on the heavy, intoxicating aroma of the flowers. And that terrifying pain did not pass, she felt every revolution of the rushing wheels, their blind, pounding, forward movement was an unspeakable torment. Suddenly she longed to be able to halt the swift momentum of the train, to haul it back from the dark pain towards which it was racing. She had never in her life felt such fear of something terrible, invisible and cruel seizing on her heart as she did now, in those seconds of incomprehensible, incredible pain and fear. And that unspeakable feeling grew stronger and stronger, tightening its grasp around her throat. The idea of being able to stop the train was like a prayer moaned out loud in her mind"

This story can be seen as a metaphor for the decline of the Austro Hungarian Empire and what that represented to Zweig.

Mel u

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