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

by Stefan Zweig, Joel Rotenberg (Translator)

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6673514,382 (4.13)1 / 163
Member:deb80
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
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fiction, austria, wwi

Work details

The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig (1982)

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English (32)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Bosnian (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Terrific book - I've purchased two more of his books recently. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
Terrific book - I've purchased two more of his books recently. ( )
  Judy_Ryfinski | Jan 20, 2016 |
The title character is Christine Hoflehner, postal clerk in the Austrian village of Klein-Reifling in 1926 postwar Austria. She shares a damp and humid attic room with her sickly mother. Her youth and happiness has been stolen in the war, along with her father and brother. Suddenly a telegram from her Aunt Claire arrives. Years ago Claire and her husband went to America and become quite wealthy. They are now vacationing in Switzerland and invite Christine to join them. Christine discovers a new and exotic life filled with pleasure and wealth. She's dressed in beautiful clothes and receives attention from attractive and wealthy men. Then suddenly it's over. Aunt Claire fears the discovery of her own secrets and sends Christine back to her miserable life in the village. Now her life there seems intolerable and her anger and bitterness is palpable. Eventually she meets Ferdinand, another miserable war survivor who spent six years in a Siberian labor camp. In Ferdinand she's found her soul mate of misery. Their meeting and their developing relationship takes us through the second half of the book.

This is an beautifully written novel about what it's like to live without hope, and what happens when someone who has nothing is given a chance to see what the good life is like, and then have it taken away from them. It's an absorbing story that also captures the bleakness of life in Austria between the wars. I had some trouble getting into it in the beginning but I'm glad I stuck with it. Just when you think you have a handle on what Christine will do, the novel stops abruptly, but ultimately satisfying, at a place that almost leads you to believe there will be another part to the story.

The book is written in two parts, each totally different from the other. I understand Zweig wrote The Post-Office Girl in the early 1930s, working on it during years that Hitler rose to power. He appears to have considered the book finished, and yet he left it untitled. It was not published in Germany until 1982 and then translated into English in 2008. Zweig committed suicide in a pact with his second wife in Brazil in 1942. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
This is the story about a young girl whose family has been ruined by the privations of the First World War. Her brother marched off to war and died. Her father’s business, taxidermy, disappeared in the war years and the loss of his son drove him to despair and ultimately death.

Christine, the main character, was a teenager when the war started and after the war she ends up in a remote village working in the post office and looking after her aging mother. She is a dedicated worker and, although she knows her life is hard and that she has not felt happy since her brother left for the war, she does not object about her lifestyle.

A long estranged aunt, who left for the United States long before war broke out, makes contact and Christine is dispatched to meet her aunt in Switzerland where the aunt is holidaying with her wealthy husband.

Christine get a taste of the high life and this unsettles her normal acceptance of her lot back at the remote village.

Needless to say the real drama of the book is concerned with how she settles back into what was her life before the holiday with the aunt. ( )
1 vote pgmcc | Dec 5, 2015 |
Zweig's novel starts off quite well, with a gripping portrayal of the shame and humiliation that come with being poor. The reader really gets to like his character and then like her less and less as the book goes on. About two-thirds of the way through the book the plot seems to run out of gas, and the ending was rather disappointing. ( )
  oparaxenos | Nov 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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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.
Quotations
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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