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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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6363115,215 (4.15)1 / 162
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 (28)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Bosnian (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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 |
Frankly I was disappointed with Zweig's last, unfinished novel as I had read a number of glowing reviews of it and most of the NYRB books I have read have been highly satisfying. This one not so much.

Zweig paints a compelling picture of a lost generation in post-WWI Austria contrasted with the luxurious life enjoyed by the wealthy in a glamourous Swiss resort. However, the main characters, Christl and her suitor Ferdinand, are self-pitying and hapless. I don't know what Zweig had in store for them, but I don't really care.

My Kindle version did not have the Afterword mentioned in some of the reviews.

I own one other book by Zweig, Balzac: A Biography which I will give a chance, but it will have to be much more engaging than this one for me to look for any more of his work. ( )
  janeajones | Jun 27, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (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.
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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