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The World of Yesterday

by Stefan Zweig

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1,803616,492 (4.34)71
By the author who inspired Wes Anderson's film, The Grand Budapest Hotel Written as both a recollection of the past and a warning for future generations, The World of Yesterday recalls the golden age of literary Vienna--its seeming permanence, its promise, and its devastating fall. Surrounded by the leading literary lights of the epoch, Stefan Zweig draws a vivid and intimate account of his life and travels through Vienna, Paris, Berlin, and London, touching on the very heart of European culture. His passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the edge of extinction. This new translation by award-winning Anthea Bell captures the spirit of Zweig's writing in arguably his most revealing work.… (more)

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» See also 71 mentions

English (27)  Spanish (8)  Dutch (6)  Catalan (4)  French (3)  Italian (3)  Swedish (2)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
I will keep this very short. I found Zweig's writing style mesmerizing; it is fluent, clear, simple and at the same time elegant. This book was a real treat! ( )
  Javi_er | May 28, 2020 |
Audio. Short version. Guter Einblick in die Geschichte. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Mar 7, 2019 |
(Original Review from the German and English editions, 2002-06-05)

"The World of Yesterday" has its flaws - some of the scenes that Zweig claims to have witnessed, particularly around the outbreak and conclusion of the Great War seem such extraordinary coincidences as to be barely credible. And on the subject of style, it's hard for a non-native German speaker to judge, so the opinion of Michael Hofmann - who's such a magnificent and sympathetic translator of Zweig's far greater contemporary Joseph Roth - has to carry some weight.

But I can't help suspecting that Zweig's paying the price for his popularity here: the fact that his novellas were made into "women's pictures", that he was so fascinated with the past, and with the nuances of social hierarchy; that he dared suggest that the pre-1918 European order might, on reflection, have been a rather better world than what succeeded it. (It's not just Zweig; Roth's modern champions, including Hofmann, invariably play down, or appear properly embarrassed by his passionate late-flowering monarchism). Absolute anathema to "progressive" intellectuals then and now (though you can see why an Austrian Jew might have preferred the world of 1913 to that of 1938. And why an eloquent, readable advocate of those values could have had a massive inter-war following).

Which is not to deny a certain "pulp" quality in some of his writing. But still, while he may not have been a great stylist, he does have an ear for the telling phrase, and - in "Beware of Pity", for example - he evokes the values, social structures, tastes and feelings of an entire vanished civilisation to wonderfully vivid effect. In my view, it's second only to "The Radetzky March" as an evocation of the moment of the Austro-Hungarian apocalypse; and as a history teacher, I recommended it to students for evoking a "feel" of the period in a way that I simply couldn't with the less readable, but more intellectually respectable, Broch or Musil.

And let's face it, Zweig is hardly outselling Dan Brown in the English-speaking world. Better, surely, that he's read than not - and it'd be a shame if this academic spat deterred a single genuinely curious reader. ( )
  antao | Nov 20, 2018 |

This had been strongly recommended to me (thanks, Thomas!) and it was a good call. It is the memoir of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, about the artistic and writing circles where he grew up, and the impact on European civilisation of the First World War and the rise of Hitler. The overall tone is of course an arc from enthusiasm to depression; shortly after the book was sent to the publishers in 1942, Zweig and his wife, exiled from their home and with no prospect of return, killed themselves. The tone shifts noticeably from ruefulness to despair as the chapters roll on.

But to be more positive: Zweig wasn’t quite a stratospheric writer, but he was a huge fan of those who were, and a lot of the best passages of the book are essentially fannish anecdotes of encounters with writers and other artists who he admired. There’s a lovely early moment, for instance, when he is visiting Brussels and is present in the studio of sculptor Charles van der Stappen as he finishes off his bust of writer Émile Verhaeren, who Zweig deeply admired. It is a striking piece of art.

Other points that fascinated me:
Zweig’s friendship with Theodor Herzl, and the impetus given to Herzl’s thoughts on Zionism by the Dreyfus case - Herzl was actually present when Dreifuss was stripped of his rank and uniform.
the unsuccessful attempt by the new Austrian emperor to turn on the Germans and negotiate a separate peace with the Allies in 1917.
Richard Strauss challenging the Nazi regime by producing an opera written by Zweig.
Zweig’s friendships with Rilke and Rolland, neither of them writers I know much about but both sound very interesting.
Zweig embodies the concept of being a citizen of Europe, particularly once his homeland has turned on him. Of course that is not fashionable in some quarters today. Reading The World of Yesterday is a reminder of where we came from, and what was lost along the way. Well worth getting.

NB that the translation is by Anthea Bell, known to me in my childhood as the translator of the Asterix books. ( )
2 vote nwhyte | Mar 11, 2018 |
Enlightening from beginning to end. History from 1890-1940 from the perspective of an Austrian writer. He talks about his encounters with Freud, Mussolini, and just about every great writer alive during his lifetime. At times I felt like it had to be fiction because it read like Forrest Gump. Simply the best autobiography I've ever read! ( )
1 vote ryanone | Jan 3, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Det är en kulturgärning av ansenligt format, att den här boken åter gjorts tillgänglig.


» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stefan Zweigprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gleichmann, GabiAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hagerup, AndersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hagerup, IngerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heerikhuizen, F.W. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toorn, Willem vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toorn, Willem vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zohn, HarryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Let's withdraw
And meet the time as it seeks us."
Shakespeare: Cymbeline

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When I attempt to find a simple formula for the period in which I grew up, prior to the First World War, I hope that I convey its fullness by calling it the Golden Age of Security.
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