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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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5772817,144 (4.17)1 / 144
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 (25)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Bosnian (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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 |
In this historical fiction set in 1926, we are introduced to Christine Hoflehner, a young postal clerk in the Austrian village of Klein-Reifling. The war has taken her father, her brother, her best prospects for marriage, and her laughter. She lives in a damp, cold attic with her rheumatic mother. The gloom of her days is broken by a telegram from her aunt Claire, gone to America years before. Claire is now rich, and she invites her niece to join her at an elegant resort in Switzerland.
Clutching her straw suitcase, Christine creeps into the grand hotel, and promptly finds herself transformed physically--by hairdressers and Claire's wardrobe--and in the shift of class expectation, by the wand of chance and misunderstanding. Her invitation into high society was a happy coincidence of her own emergence as an attractive young woman. She dances, takes rides in roadsters, and is courted by gentlemen. Just as life seems to pull her into its fullness, a jealous acquaintance discovers the pretense. Fearing exposure of her own long-dead secrets, Claire sends Christine and her straw suitcase, packing. Back in the village, Christine's prospects seem even more dismal for the certainty she has of what she has missed. But this is just the beginning.
The novel moves out of the grand hotel, to the sleepy village, and then toward a more complex counterpoint of social spheres. Christine visits her sister Nelly's family in Vienna. Her sister's chubby mercantile husband introduces her to Ferdinand, his comrade from the war who spent years in a Siberian prison camp, only to return to a country that no longer had any use for him. His family favors evaporated in the hyperinflation, and his instant poverty is insured by injuries which specifically disable him from his pursuit of architecture. When Ferdinand pours out the bitterness of his heart, Christine recognizes a kindred spirit. Yet, their relations never become obvious. There is no "happily" or even "love", but it is by no means incomplete. Their lives are deeply described and rooted in a historical context. We come to appreciate what war does to people, to a whole generation. The two souls cling to each other, but this does not make them less immune to the withered circumstances in which they live.
At the end, the couple contemplate suicide, and then, almost unintentionally, conspire to commit a serious felonious theft. In the insightful Afterword, William Deresiewicz notes: "The narrative terminates at the conclusion of a scene, and on a thematically significant word." That word, pregnant with Joycean revenance in the mouth of a woman, is "Yes".

The Nazis destroyed the European civilization achieved in the Austro-Hungarian humanist movement. Herr Zweig provides a clear window on the golden age of Viennese cafe society at the turn of the century. The author received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1915 and was arguably the most prolific, popular and widely-known author of his day. He seems to have read widely and wrote as if on a mission to preserve civilization as doom descended upon it. Zweig escaped the camps but his death in 1942 in Brazil was a double-suicide with his wife, and is portended in this novel, published in Germany as "Rausch der Verwandlung" [Intoxication of Transformation] after his death. ( )
2 vote keylawk | Oct 18, 2011 |
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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)

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