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The Post-Office Girl (New York Review Books…

The Post-Office Girl (New York Review Books Classics) (original 1982; edition 2008)

by Stefan Zweig, Joel Rotenberg (Translator)

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6022916,247 (4.18)1 / 158
Title:The Post-Office Girl (New York Review Books Classics)
Authors:Stefan Zweig
Other authors:Joel Rotenberg (Translator)
Info:NYRB Classics (2008), Edition: First English Printing, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, Books Read 2013
Tags:fiction, austria, wwi

Work details

The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig (1982)

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English (26)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Bosnian (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
This is Stefan Zweig's last novel. Christine lost the best years of her life to the First World War, which began when she was just 16 and which also took her father, her brother, her family's wealth and her mother's health. Through connections, she manages to find a job as a post office clerk in an isolated village. The salary, barely adequate for one, is stretched to also care for her mother and means that they live as unwelcome tenants in a damp attic room. Now in her late twenties, Christine lives a quiet life, until an aunt and uncle, visiting from America, invites her to stay with with them in a Swiss resort town.

Christine blossoms under the care and luxury of this alien life. She dances and laughs with witty, well-dressed men and discovers a new way of looking at life, but eventually and too soon, she returns to her old life as the post office girl and finds that she can't return to her earlier acceptance of her straightened circumstances.

The Post Office Girl is beautifully written and so perfectly captures Christine's inner feelings as she moves from blind acceptance to elation to a clear-eyed awareness of the bleakness of her life. The War to End All Wars destroyed more than young men's lives and the economic depression that followed robbed many of all hope, while the well-off danced, blithely unaware of the suffering around them.

I'd expected this to be a serious and somewhat dour read, but found instead an impossible to put down novel about a vibrant woman destroyed by circumstances beyond her control. It's not a feel-good story, but it's also not without hope and the ending was pitch perfect and occurred at the right moment. ( )
4 vote RidgewayGirl | Sep 8, 2014 |
Ends too soon, but still a well-written book. A lot of familiar themes, small town girl goes to a posh resort, and hijinks ensues. ( )
  charlie68 | Apr 21, 2014 |
This is a page-turning story about capitalism, post-war generation, and poverty. It talks about how money rules your life. It is about the class struggle. Very nice read, i enjoyed it. And to think it was written in the 1930's and still speaks to our times!

Actually, I have known someone like Franz: a macho, controlling, whiny, poor, miserable victim of his society. I have to say that I didn't like the characters, I did sympathize with them, but I couldn't relate to their personalities, only to their circumstances. There are some wonderful quotes in this book, I am very glad I have read this one, and am looking forward to reading more Zweig. The ending is satisfying. ( )
1 vote pathogenik | Mar 2, 2014 |
Engaging, and clearly well-translated, story of personal angst in post World War Austria. Christl (Christine) finds a glimmer of the sublime, which doesn't last, making her return to life's drudgery all the more vexing. An unfinished gem, in my view. I will eagerly return to Zweig. ( )
  JamesMScott | Jul 6, 2013 |
As I read this novel by Stefan Zweig, the image of a roller coaster ride surfaced in my mind repeatedly. You know the way the car climbs slowly to the summit of each curve then shoots down the slope at high speed, then repeats the pattern again and again? This novel follows that pattern. Zweig's writing is brilliant! He juxtaposes long descriptive, contemplative passages with mind-boggling pivotal moments in the lives of the characters. The small roller coaster is the string of post WWI experiences of the protagonist, Christine, and eventually with Ferdinand as well. The meta-roller coaster is the sense of loss, lack of meaning, and search for meaning experienced by all who were touched by the war. Zweig's use of language, his characters, and his plot make this a memorable read! ( )
  hemlokgang | Jun 24, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zweig, Stefanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Deresiewicz, WilliamAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rotenberg, JoelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One village post office in Austria is much like another: seen one and you've seen them all.
Memory is so corrupt that you remember only what you want to; if you want to forget about something, slowly but surely you do. [115]
Fear is a distorting mirror in which anything can appear as a distortion of itself, stretched to terrible proportions; once inflamed, the imagination pursues the craziest and most unlikely possibilities. [116]
"You wouldn't believe what a dead finger does to a living hand.
"The smell is suffocating. The smell of stale cigarette smoke, bad food, wet clothes, the smell of the old woman's dread and worry and wheezing."
"Poverty stinks, stinks like a ground-floor room off an air-shaft, or clothes that need changing. You smell it yourself, as though you were made of sewage."
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Book description
From the NYRB edition cover: " The logic of capitalism, boom and bust, is unremitting and unforgiving. But what happens to human feeling in a completely commodified world? In The Post-Office Girl, Stefan Zweig, a deep analyst of the human passions, lays bare the private life of capitalism.
Christine toils in a provincial post office in post-World War I Austria, a country gripped by unemployment. Out of the blue, a telegram arrives from Christine's rich American aunt inviting her to a resort in the Swiss Alps. Christine is immediately swept up into a world of inconceivable wealth and unleashed desire. She feels herself utterly transformed: nothing is impossible. But then, abruptly, her aunt cuts her loose. Christine returns to the post office, where yes, nothing will ever be the same.
Christine meets Ferdinand, a bitter war veteran and disappointed architect, who works construction jobs when he can get them. They are drawn to each other, even as they are crushed by a sense of deprivation, of anger and shame. Work, politics, love, sex: everything is impossible for them. Life is meaningless, unless, through one desperate and decisive act, they can secretly remake their world from within.

Cinderella meets Bonnie and Clyde in Zweig's haunting and hard-as-nails novel, completed during the 1930s, as he was driven by the Nazis into exile, but left unpublished at the time of his death. The Post-Office Girl, available here for the first time in English, transforms our image of a modern master's achievement."
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The post-office girl is Christine, who looks after her ailing mother and toils in a provincial Austrian post office in the years just after the Great War. One afternoon, as she is dozing among the official forms and stamps, a telegraph arrives addressed to her. It is from her rich aunt, who lives in America.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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