Link of the week

IMG_8850_resizedTo round off my two recent postings about Stefan Zweig, here are two pieces about the Austrian author who died 1942 in exile in Brazil.

The first article is an insightful portrait originally published in The New Yorker, revealing the man behind the public persona Zweig created for himself.

The Escape Artist – The Death and Life of Stefan Zweig by Leo Carey

The second text is a conversation  between Wes Anderson, who has credited Zweig as the inspiration for his movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, and George Prochnik, author of  the biography The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World.

‘I stole from Stefan Zweig’: Wes Anderson on the author who inspired his latest movie



Exile on Main Street – “Ostend” by Volker Weidermann

ostend-pushkin-pressThis week’s instalment is following up on my review of Stefan Zweig’s novel Impatience of the Heart with a book examining Zweig’s and a group of fellow writers’ early years in exile.

The year is 1936. The Nazis, in power for a mere three years, have orchestrated the infamous book burnings and driven the vast majority of German literary intelligentsia out of Germany. For the time being, most have settled in adjoining countries such as France or the Netherlands, the latter home of the famous Querido publishing house, one of the very few publishers left for this group of writers. They are writing for an ever diminishing readership, waiting for news from home and hoping, against better judgement, that the Nazi spell will soon be broken.

In Ostend, Volker Weidermann provides us with a masterful snapshot of these times. He re-imagines, not without some sepia-coloured nostalgia, some sepia-coloured nostalgia, the travails of early exile placing a coterie of writers for one last summer at the swish Belgian seaside resort of Ostend, where they spend their time writing, having affairs, gossiping and talking politics. The writers, who are congregating by the sea, cover the whole spectrum of intellectual resistance against Hitler: there is the bourgeois humanist Zweig, the nostalgic monarchist Joseph Roth, his lover Irmgard Keun, a prominent proponent of what the Nazis derogatively labelled “asphalt literature”. They are joined by the communist faction around famous journalist Egon Erwin Kisch and “red media baron” Willi Munzenberg. Notably missing, though, are the two giants of literary opposition to Hitler-Germany: Thomas Man and Bertold Brecht. Continue reading “Exile on Main Street – “Ostend” by Volker Weidermann”

The Pity Trap – “Impatience of the Heart” by Stefan Zweig

Zweig Cover smallContinuing with my mini-series of German books published in English translation this year, this week’s pick is Impatience of the Heart by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881 – 1942).

Zweig has been undergoing a minor renaissance recently after being credited by film director Wes Anderson as the inspiration behind The Grand Budapest Hotel as well as being the subject of a well-received biography by George Prochnik dealing with his years in exile after the Nazis came to power. Prior to being forced to flee his homeland, Zweig was one of the most successful authors working in the German language. His popular histories and novellas, many of them adapted for the screen, became bestsellers and afforded him a life as a literary celebrity in the 1920s and early 30s.

Impatience of the Heart, also published in an earlier translation by Anthea Bell under the title Beware of Pity, is Zweig’s only novel to be published in his lifetime. It was released in 1939, three years before he and his wife committed suicide in Petropolis, Brazil where they lived in isolated and materially modest exile. Continue reading “The Pity Trap – “Impatience of the Heart” by Stefan Zweig”