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Reading Zweig.

Author Theme Reads

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Dec 29, 2009, 10:15pm Top

Share your progress on this year's author theme read or organize groups for reading one work. Discuss your method for attacking this theme read. Are you going chronologically in publication order, series order, or reading major works first?

Dec 29, 2009, 10:36pm Top

I've already read a few of Zweig's works:
Beware of Pity
Twenty-four hours in the life of a Woman

Along with two shorter stories:
La ruelle au clair de lune
Lettre d'une inconnue

I read all of those in French hence some titles I translated, some I did not.

I have a collection in French called Stefan Zweig: Romans et Nouvelles which includes:
Conte crepusculaire
Brulant secret
La peur
La Femme et le paysage
La nuit fantastique
Lettre d'une inconnue
La ruelle au clair de lune
Vingt-quatre heures de la vie d'une femme
La confusion de sentiments
La collection invisible
Le bouquiniste Mendel
Revealtion inattendue d'un metier
Rachel contre Dieu
Le chandelier enterre
Les deux jumelles
La pitie dangereuse
Le joueur d'echecs

I'll be skipping what I've already read and will be dabbling in and out with the others throughout the year. I'm excited to be sharing Zweig with others since I'm a big fan.

Edited: Dec 30, 2009, 6:56am Top

I'm starting with Amok which has some short stories in the collection with it. I have Chess coming to me as a 1001 bookring. Other than that I will just pick up books randomly, I will try and get some through bookcrossing and others when I can afford them off amazon (I'm supposed to cut down on spending this year so I can have a 5 week holiday!)

Dec 30, 2009, 7:00am Top

If I own the books - like Amok I am happy to send them to others when I have finished with them. They will be bookcrossing books so recipients will be able to keep them if they really wish, but preferably left in the 'wild' or passed on to other readers. If your interested in any Zweig book through the year that I own send me a message

Dec 31, 2009, 12:51am Top

I'll be starting with Balzac about mid January. The Hawaii Library system only has a few of his books - so I'll start with the ones they have - not very academic but affordable! Are there any other biography lovers in the group?

Jan 1, 2010, 9:04pm Top

I have been completely ignorant of Stefan Zweig so I am really looking forward to this. Brisbane City Council Library has 14 titles listed in their catalogue - Mari Antowanetto which I think is in Japanese, and quite a few titles in Vietnamese and Chinese too. The only titles in English I could find were Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman and The Royal Game and other stories. So I've ordered both hoping that there are some differences and I might capture some other stories. I have also been brave and ordered from a new (for me) online bookstore called Emporiumbooks.com.au which had Burning Secret in stock. I would prefer to read his books in chronological order but let's see how we go!!

Jan 3, 2010, 6:04pm Top

I've been lured over here by kidzdoc and, indirectly, by christiguc. Like alexdaw, I've been completely ignorant of Stefan Zweig but christiguc gifted me a copy of The Post-Office Girl for another group's Secret Santa event. I just finished it yesterday and thought it was pretty amazing. Here's my LT Review. It's also on my blog.

I don't have any immediate plans to read more Zweig but will follow this group's conversation ... you might just tempt me!

Jan 3, 2010, 6:19pm Top

Welcome to everyone joining the group. Please peruse corresponding threads to post your thoughts and begin discussion. I'm already happy to see that many of you are newcomers to Zweig so it'll be exciting to see your thoughts. :)

Jan 3, 2010, 9:43pm Top

Lilisin, would you be able to replace the photo of Dostoyevsky with one of Zweig on the main page of this thread?

Jan 3, 2010, 9:56pm Top

I've tried doing that several times but for some reason it won't let me change the photo. It's something I'd have to ask Tim about.

Edited: Jan 12, 2010, 1:10pm Top

This thread (Zweig: Zweig's shorter works) is currently discussing the following works:

Twenty-four hours in the life of a woman
Letter from an Unknown Woman
Moonbeam Alley
The Royal Game
La femme et le paysage (Woman and the Landscape?)
The two twins

Edited: Jan 5, 2010, 7:33pm Top

Once I finish my current book, I intend to start my first Zweig piece. I think I will read the ones I have picked up in chronological order. I love this idea of the author theme read. It allows for such depth.

1. Burning Secret
2. Amok and Other Stories
3. Chess Story
4. Post Office Girl
5. Wondrak and Other Stories

Jan 22, 2010, 12:58pm Top

I just finished my first Stefan Zweig yesterday and I found The Post-Office Girl to be amazing. I love his style of writing and I also think the translation I read was excellent. My library has so few of his books and all of the others are bio types on Magellan, Marie Antoinette, and one other; I forget who. When I finish those, I will have to see if they can get the remainder from their partner-library for me. I am looking forward to each and every one of them.

Jan 27, 2010, 9:56pm Top

Michael Hoffman doesn't care for our boy . . . to say the least:

"Stefan Zweig just tastes fake. He’s the Pepsi of Austrian writing. He is the one whose books made films – 18 of them, and that’s the books, not the films (which come in at a stupefying 38). It makes sense: these are hypothetical and bloodless and stiltedly extreme monuments and monodramas for ‘teenagers of all ages’, as someone said, books composed for the bourgeoisie to give itself culture or a fright, which needed Hollywood or UFA to make them real, to give them expressions, faces, bodies, rooms and dialogue; and to drain some of the schematic grand guignol out of them. Of course he failed the Karl Kraus test – who didn’t? Kraus quotes some yea-sayer to the effect that Zweig with his novellas had conquered all the languages of the world, and adds two words of his own: ‘except one’. The story went the rounds that Zweig had his manuscripts checked for grammatical errors by a German professor, which gets most things about Zweig: the ineptitude, the anxiety to please, the respect for authority, and the use of others."

Read the rest here.

A comment on Hoffman's piece here.

Jan 28, 2010, 1:42am Top

Oh my goodness....this stuff is priceless!!! Can you believe the war of words....whoever said the literary world was dull???? Thank you dcozy....I had no idea....now I'm even more intrigued....

Jan 30, 2010, 8:06am Top

Like my daughter tells her children: "If it hurts, don't do it!~!"
I am so glad we can always apply the "pearl rule" or just go by our gut and "put it down". There are so many great books out there just waiting to be read but a bit of controversy never hurt a title. And yes, the above and linked comments are intriguing.
As for the literary world being dull; hmmmm, who ever did say that? They must be living in a tinker toy world.

Feb 2, 2010, 12:31pm Top

I read Burning Secret and thought it was fantastic......

Feb 2, 2010, 4:34pm Top

Michael Hofmann's intemperate take on Zweig got me interested enough to pull Beware of Pity off of my shelf. I'm only a hundred or so pages in, but I am enjoying it. The story within a story aspect of it appeals to me: a writer, not unlike Zweig, meets a retired officer at a party who tells him a long story, parts of which are stories other people told to the officer. I'll post more when I've read more.

Feb 11, 2010, 1:56am Top

The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig

Based on the two Zweig novels I've read, it seems that he likes to burden his characters with tragic and unchangeable fates evocative of Sophocles. Just as, from the first few pages of Oedipus Rex, one never imagines that Oedipus will live happily ever after—indeed, one is quite certain of the contrary—so in Zweig's novels. Reading of the post-office girl and the deadening monotony of her life scraping by as a functionary in a village post office, one understands—even when, though an odd bit of luck, she finds herself living the high life at a Swiss resort—that she will tumble. Tumble she does: in the closing pages of the book it looks like suicide will be her lot. This turns out not to be the case, but the "out" that Zweig dangles in front of her is so precarious that one comes to see that giving her this chance is simply a more subtle way of letting the reader experience her defeat, a defeat which will come after the last page is turned, in the mind of the reader. Her tragedy is more vivid for that.

Feb 11, 2010, 11:41am Top

Nicely said, dcozy.

Feb 13, 2010, 6:26pm Top

Hi everyone - just listened to a podcast of the Guardian Books podcast 6 February featuring Aleksander Hemon and Anthea Bell on European Literature in Translation. You can download this for free from the iTunes website - yes I have joined the 21st century and bought myself an iPod shuffle - hallelujah!

Feb 13, 2010, 7:14pm Top

I downloaded that podcast onto my ipod shuffle too. It was very interesting and whetted my appetite for more authors in translation (I think the podcast said only 3% of european literature was translated into English). I would like to get hold of Hemon's short story collection.

That's why I like this group... I'm introduced tofabulous European writers like Zweig, Roth, Grossman that I would never have known about otherwise. Another good thing about the podcast is that I now know how to pronounce 'Zweig'.

Feb 15, 2010, 9:29pm Top

I've turned the last pages of Stefan Zweig's late novella, Chess Story, and thus my Zweigathon has drawn to a close (it's the last Zweig on my shelf). I enjoyed it, The Post-Office Girl, and Beware of Pity enough that I will certainly read more Zweig. In Chess Story the words are as carefully chosen as the moves a chess master makes in the game with which Zweig's character becomes obsessed, an obsession that helps him to escape from the Nazis but at the same time makes it unlikely that he will escape from the game that has taken such a prominent place in his mind. One doubts Zweig's protagonist ever will find freedom; rather, as with most of Zweig's tragically doomed characters, one would not be surprised if, as his creator did, he finds relief only in suicide.

Feb 17, 2010, 12:25pm Top

Just started reading Amok and Other Stories.

Edited: May 4, 2010, 8:20am Top

Laura (lindsacl) told me about this thread and suggested I stop by. I just read and reviewed Chess Story so Zweig's last book was my first. It's a story I'm not apt to forget and I will be reading other Zweig books.

May 9, 2010, 4:07am Top

On this past Sunday, the PEN American Center hosted a panel on Stefan Zweig, which included (gasp!) Michael Hofmann. Alta Ifland posted this entry on the center's web site about this panel:

The panel on Stefan Zweig at the Austrian Cultural Forum, moderated by Jonathan Taylor, was probably the most successful panel I attended during these past several days, and this must have had something to do with the fact that all the speakers seemed to know each other, so there was a chemistry between them that didn’t exist at most of the other panels. And then, there was the fact that one of them, translator Michael Hofmann, took a position that is rarely seen at such events: he basically reduced Zweig to a zero that not only was incapable of “predicting the future,” but wrote “bad literature.” To begin with, Hofmann almost provoked a revolution among the audience because he was speaking in such a low voice he was barely audible, and the audience consisted mostly of elderly people; when he was asked to raise his voice, he made a dismissive gesture with his hand and quietly said, “No.”

“Well, this is going to be an interesting panel,” I thought. In the course of the discussion I found out that Hofmann had recently authored an article for The London Review of Books, in which he voiced his strong opinions on Zweig. Next to Hofmann was seated Paul Holdengräber, who kept provoking Hofmann, asking him to explain his “strong animosity” toward Zweig. And “explain” Hofmann did not. With the same bored and nonchalant air, he opened his mouth several times, uttering a string of words that were not quite sentences, accompanying them with some facial expressions that indicated that there was not much to say on such an obvious topic. Holdengraber—an even more eccentric character than Hofmann—kept trying to hold and grab him, but he kept slipping away. In a colorful introduction delivered with deadpan intonation, Holdengraber mixed inside stories about Zweig with family anecdotes of his own (apparently, in his youth, he had once asked his father for ten pairs of shoes).

Of all the panelists, the one who seemed the most knowledgeable about Zweig was George Prochink, who talked at length about Zweig’s “poetry of desperation,” about his constant desire to evade and to get away, which eventually led him to suicide. Zweig was very much against the Americanization of the world and saw in the new European fads—cinema, radio (technology), fashion—a sign of an increasing tendency toward sameness, Klemens Renoldner talked a little about Zweig’s suicide with his wife in 1942, after his exile to Brazil.

Briefly, the discussion was centered on Zweig’s nostalgia for the past and his apolitical position at a time when politics was so invasive (he was forced to exile himself because of the Nazis). Prochnik revealed that the conflict he had with Hannah Arendt, who was disappointed with Zweig’s refusal to speak up against the political situation in the thirties, and with his retreat into esthetics, might have been exacerbated by the fact that she had worked as his secretary (?!).

“To talk about literature shouldn’t be about glorifying or bashing someone, but about discovering,” Renoldner said, summarizing the panel’s ethos. One had the impression of eavesdropping on a conversation in some café or a British club.

As Holdengraber has put it: those who are familiar with Zweig’s work, should read Hofmann’s article; those who aren’t, shouldn’t. After all, the fact that Zweig might be a mediocre stylist, as Hofmann claims, is completely irrelevant when one is dealing with the author of some of the most obsessively passionate love stories of all time. Read the stories in Amok! As far as I am concerned, they are comparable with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, the greatest love story of all time.


May 9, 2010, 7:42am Top

One of the things I find so fascinating about this Michael Hoffman brouhaha is that he translated the edition of The Tale of the 1002nd Night by Joseph Roth that I read recently, and one of the reasons I didn't like the book as much as Roth's other work was because the translation itself irritated me. For example, there is a low-life character who doesn't speak good German, and Hoffman renders his speech in contemporary and late 20th century street slang -- it was jarring to me. I'm sure there's a way of showing that someone is speaking that way without jumping over 100 years into the future. Hoffman's introduction to the book also annoyed me.

May 9, 2010, 8:07am Top

How bizarre! I'll be sure to avoid any books that have been translated by Hoffman. The blog makes him sound like a complete you-know-what, in keeping with his LRB article.

I just took a quick glance at several of Hofmann's past articles in the online edition of the LRB (I have a subscription to the print edition), and he adopted the same catty and condescending tone in two of the articles about authors he clearly doesn't like. Even a poem he wrote for one edition is snippy and insulting, to Australians and Americans. What a guy!

May 9, 2010, 9:00am Top

I think I read somewhere that he is planning on translating all of Joseph Roth, so I have to hurry and read the Roths I haven't read so I'm not compelled to read his translations!

May 9, 2010, 9:18am Top

According to the LRB web site, Hofmann "has translated five of Joseph Roth’s novels as well as his short stories, essays and reporting." Great.

May 9, 2010, 12:56pm Top

Just this week, I read Roth's The Radetzky March, also translated by Hofmann. The style was perfectly readable, although I don't know a lot of German and didn't look at the original, so can't say if it was accurate or not in portraying Roth's intentions. However, the introduction was incomprehensible. It ranged across several of Roth's books and his life, and didn't really seem written for this book. I read it after the book itself, and even so I didn't really understand some of what he referred to. There's obviously a lot of politics in the world of translating from German. Maybe he's annoyed that no one actually wants him to translate Zweig?

May 9, 2010, 1:35pm Top

My copy of The Radetzky March was published by The Overlook Press in 2002, and was translated by Joachim Neugroschel. I haven't read it yet, though. I did read Three Novellas by Roth last month, which was also published by The Overlook Press; the first two novellas, Fallmerayer the Stationmaster and The Bust of the Emperor, were translated by John Hoare, but the last one, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, was translated by Hofmann. It seemed okay to me, as it was quite readable, and I didn't notice any difference between the translations. I did look to see who the translators were before I read the book, though.

I had wondered if Hofmann was annoyed that he wasn't asked to translate Zweig, and if that became the motivation for his LRB diatribe.

Edited: May 9, 2010, 1:43pm Top

The Tale of the 1002nd Night is the only Roth I have that was translated by Hoffman. My copy of The Radetzky March was translated by Joachim Neugroschel, The Emperor's Tomb and Hotel Savoy by John Hoare, and Weights and Measures by Joseph LeVay. By the way, for translating from German, I have really enjoyed the translations of Thomas Mann by John E. Woods. It is not that I'm expert in any way on translation: I really only notice the ones I like and the ones I don't, but not all the perfectly serviceable ones.

May 9, 2010, 2:07pm Top

So far I've read six books by Zweig, including two that I read last year:

• Chess Story (2009)
• Journey into the Past (2009)
• Amok and Other Stories
The Star Above the Forest
Incident on Lake Geneva

• Wondrak and Other Stories
In the Snow

• Selected Stories
Fantastic Night
Letter from an Unknown Woman
Twenty-four Hours in the Life of a Woman
The Fowler Snared
The Invisible Collection

• Twilight & Moonbeam Alley
Moonbeam Alley

I own but haven't yet read:
• The Post-Office Girl
• Beware of Pity
• The World of Yesterday (autobiography)
• Fear (ordered yesterday from Amazon)

I'll plan to read two more novellas by Zweig:
• Burning Secret
• Confusion

I'm open to suggestions of any other highly recommended books by Zweig.

May 9, 2010, 6:11pm Top

Since the very beginning I haven't understood Hoffman's ill will towards Zweig either. It's perfectly fine to not like an author but when you're showing such animosity you better have some reason to back it up. And trying to drag others into your distaste is just unnecessary.

kidzdoc -
Read "Beware of Pity" next. Very interesting novella! It was the first work of Zweig's that I ever read and is what got me into Zweig. :)

May 9, 2010, 6:31pm Top

As a person who just wants to read the works, it is fascinating to read the above commentaries. I appreciate LTers who take the time to share all of this information which I am too lazy to seek on my own. Thank you! It is edifying!

May 10, 2010, 3:46pm Top

I came across Chess Story, which I thought terrific. On the basis of that, I bought Beware of Pity, but procrastinated out of fear I wouldn't be able to put it down--I read the novella in one long sitting--and I have a few things to accomplish in the next few weeks. But lilisin (#35), why do you call Pity a novella? My copy is 353 pages.

May 10, 2010, 3:47pm Top

Is it that long? I read the book 10 years or so ago so I just couldn't remember the length properly. Novel it is then!

May 10, 2010, 5:23pm Top

I think Beware of Pity is generally considered Zweig's only full-length novel.

Edited: Jul 21, 2010, 3:41pm Top

So we are halfway through the author theme challenge and I have completed a few more works by Zweig this year. So now I have read:

Beware of Pity
Twenty-four hours in the life of a Woman
La ruelle au clair de lune
Lettre d'une inconnue
La Femme et le paysage
La confusion de sentiments
Rachel contre Dieu
Les deux jumelles
Le joueur d'echecs

Sep 9, 2010, 1:10pm Top

Just starting Chess Story and really anticipating a wonderful read!

Sep 11, 2010, 3:39pm Top

Just finished Chess Story. A pofound piece of writing, both moving and disturbing. My review is here:


Sep 13, 2010, 7:12am Top

I think your assessment of Chess Story as "both moving and disturbing" sums up Zweig as an author. I'm especially thinking of his short stories in Amok and The Post Office Girl.

Dec 22, 2010, 9:22am Top

Trying to fit in one more Zweig read with Wondrak and other stories. I am stunned by the power of "Compulsion".

Dec 23, 2010, 10:03am Top

Finished the three short stories found in Wondrak and other stories. I was, as I am sure it occurs commonly, left pofoundly touched by "Wondrak" and it's unfinished ending. I spent a lot of time considering where the author was at that time in his life, in Brazil, and what his state of mind was. I have to also wonder why the story was entitled, "Wondrak". He was a bureaucratic clerk, while the main character was the mother, Ruzena. I wonder how much Zweig identified with the characters and their struggle to make the choices they each made. The fact that he and his wife committed suicide before he finished the story is heartbreaking and disturbing.

Certainly all three stories communicated the power of government and war to take away all that is dear unless one is willing to take a tremendously risky stand.

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