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Confusion: The Private Papers of Privy…

Confusion: The Private Papers of Privy Councillor R. von D. (1927)

by Stefan Zweig

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (7)  French (3)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
In this, a seemingly directionless young student is suddenly inspired by a passionate professor of Shakespeare. The relationships between the student, the professor and his young wife are complicated and they (and the reader) go through a rollercoaster of emotions. It's hard to write a review of this without a lot of spoilers .. so I'll just say that this is a great study of student/mentor, psychological challenges, cultural taboos and expectations. ( )
  cameling | Oct 2, 2014 |
POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT - (though I think you'd have to be pretty dense not to realize what's going on after the first forty pages)

"The love that dare not speak its name" in Wilhelmine Germany. Zweig's novella from 1926 is dated, but interestingly so. A tale of pedagogy and repression - and in the NYRB edition, beautifully translated by Anthea Bell. ( )
  yooperprof | Nov 30, 2013 |
I picked up the novella known to me as [La confusion des sentiments] yesterday on audio, which I'd gotten from the library in the French translation read by an excellent narrator, Daniel Mesguich, a French-Algerian actor and director in theater and opera. I ended up doing lots of things around the house I'd put off for weeks and months just so I could listen to the whole thing in one 'sitting' so to speak. There's something about Zweig's writing I find deeply satisfying. He seems to go to the centre of human feeling and look at what moves us in a manner both unflinching, and also very gentle, perhaps because of all the attention to the finer movements of the heart he delves on. I had started this audiobook some months back and couldn't concentrate and so decided to put it off to a time when I felt more receptive to it, and I'm glad I did. It's a story told in the first person by a beautiful and naive young man of nineteen who initially has little or no interest in literature and studying, who on his first day at a new university meets a professor whose passionate delivery about Shakespeare and the Elizabethans is so mesmerizing that he becomes instantly enamoured of both the subject and the professor, both of which he decides to dedicate himself to heart and soul. Pure poetry and complex and satisfying character studies. ( )
  Smiler69 | Sep 1, 2013 |
This is another fantastic Zweig. A respected, successful professor looks back on the relationship that both made him and scarred him. He recalls his youth, first as a dissipated young man, then as a dedicated student who revered his literature professor, a moody but passionate man with a disapproving, changeable wife. The book is a highly addictive read and as usual, Zweig has excellent, intense depictions of varying psychological states. The central secret will probably be easy for modern readers to guess but it is still a powerful story.

The narrator, Roland, first relates his hedonistic days as a student at a large university in Berlin. After being discovered by his father, he shamefacedly transfers to a smaller school in a provincial town. Roland was never a very dedicated student. However, when he walks in on his English professor giving a fiery, passionate lecture, he is swept away and delves into the material, transforming into a model student. The professor comes to act as a mentor to him and Roland spends more and more time at his professor’s apartment. He is also introduced to the professor’s wife, a cool and self-effacing woman. Strangely, when Roland meets her in public, she is cheerful and gregarious, seemingly a different person. When Roland decides to help his professor complete his unfinished magnum opus, the fragile relations between the three of them come crashing down.

The literal translation of the original title is something like “Emotional Maelstrom” and this could fit almost any of Zwieg’s novels. Zweig does an amazingly good job of conveying the intensity of the characters’ feelings even when he does some telling instead of showing. However, the English title, Confusion, is also apt – the narrator is frequently uncertain about the thoughts and intentions of the professor and his wife. All the characters have two versions of their selves that are seen throughout the book and there are a number of scenes that have someone “catching” another character in a different mode. Roland’s father walks in on him with a girl, a moment of shame and discovery as well as the start of the actual plot. The narrator switches between thoughtless hedonist and dedicated student but remembering people observing him as the former is a source of embarrassment. The professor also has a double life. Roland catches him as an enthusiastic molder of minds and is inspired. Later, though, he reverts back to an old and tired man going through the motions of teaching. As they get closer, the professor is alternately a kind mentor or cold and insulting. His wife is caught in public by Roland in another confusion scene. This duality clearly leads up to the denouement and there is a related motif of observation and voyeurism. The frequent idea of someone watching becomes oppressive and the climactic scene takes place in the dark. In addition, the whole story is Roland’s memory of the past and it becomes obvious that he has preserved the confusing doubling of his youth – a point made clear in the last sentences. ( )
2 vote DieFledermaus | Aug 9, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zweig, Stefanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Einar NessTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590173678, 1590174992

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