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The Post-Office Girl

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4.03  ·  Rating details ·  4,176 ratings  ·  492 reviews
2009 PEN Translation Prize Finalist

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
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Paperback, 257 pages
Published April 15th 2008 by NYRB Classics (first published 1982)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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Jim Fonseca
A story of poverty, despair and disillusioned lives. (Another ‘light’ read, LOL.) A young woman, a post office clerk in Austria, has lived in poverty supporting her mother most of her life. She was born in 1898 and thus in her teens went through the deprivations of WW I. “The war stole her decade of youth.” Her small village offers no marriage prospects.

Suddenly a wealthy aunt and uncle from the United States invite her to visit with them on vacation in the Swiss Alps. For a little more than
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Kalliope




FRAGMENTED IDENTITIES / FRAGMENTED NOVEL

One has to approach this novella with trepidation. Zweig did not publish it. The first and posthumous edition is from 1982, after a considerable reworking of Zweig’s drafts by Knut Beck. Zweig took his own life in a planned manner in February 1942, but before doing so he had sent to his publisher two manuscripts which he had just finished: his memoirs or Die Welt von Gestern. Erinnerungen eines Europäers and Schachnovelle. To leave this earlier work
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Brian
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The world would be a better place if we could all just agree to read more Stefan Zweig. Is that so hard?

I have a pet theory, my own personal belief why Stefan has been neglected. Before the dawn of the e-book, Zweig's novels were shelved in libraries and bookstores in that alphabetical no-man's land: the tail end of the last shelf, right next to those spare metal bookends that look like jetsam from the Millenium Falcon. I can honestly say I've never once, ever, browsed without purpose in the Z's
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Mary
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, nyrb, austria, 2016
With some things in life, you can’t go back once you’ve crossed a line. For me it was travel. Once my teenage self left my home country for the first time I was hooked, and I never looked at anything in the same way again. To go back to a life without traveling was unthinkable. With the post-office girl, it’s a brief foray into the world of the elite, a glimpse into what life is like on the other side. When circumstances force you back to your prosaic life, the bitterness that seeps into your ...more
Cheryl
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cheryl by: Nidhi Singh
She feels borne along, carried by the wind. She was a child the last time she flew like this. This is the beginning of the delirium of transformation.

To live again, after experiencing the brutality of war. To lose one's parent, one's home, one's trajectory; to feel mentally crippled after war has stripped one of everything one thought she was or could become, everything one thought about life. To see life anew, after being given a chance. To hope. To dream. To try and be 'normal' again: never
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Josh
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, high-five, nyrb
I'm a sensitive man, there's no denying that. Only one person sees me this way and it's rare that anyone else has in the past. There was a part in this story, just a few pages, that made me weep inconsolably on the inside. Some books grip me, make me react in a negative way, putting me in a psychological state of melancholia and grief, but it's rare that I feel as if I'm inside the character's head as he/she is speaking to me. The author and I have the same idea about a specific thing and it ...more
Ines
May 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You will say... is she crazy to have given two stars to Stefan Zweig? Maybe the only or little more on all GR readers with such a low review? I say immediately... Writing is sublime, it takes your mind and your word.... But only that, i had pity especially for Christine’s heart, she remained anchored in a life without hope and resilience till the end...
That extreme poverty is unimaginable, ... but as the reading went on, everything seemed to be based on one perverse judgment of the other...
On
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Nidhi Singh
When will it be me? When will it be my turn? What have I been dreaming about during these long empty mornings if not about being free someday from this meaningless grind, this deadly race against time? Relaxing for once, having some unbroken time to myself, not always in shreds, in shards so tiny you could cut your finger on them.


Life can sometimes seem to be arrested in a state of perpetual halt; the waiting for your chance that never ever comes. Not a moment of respite, not a moment without
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Fionnuala
It's quite a few years sinceI read this but I remember going out immediately afterwards and buying two other books by Zweig.
I think that might serve in lieu of a five star rating.
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
This is a novel for today, an odd thing to say, considering it was written almost seventy years ago. It's a tragic version of the Cinderella story, a version with no glass slipper and no Prince Charming; it's a story of a girl taken to the heights only to be plunged back into the depths.

The author, Stephan Zweig, though not that well known in the English-speaking world, is probably the best late representative of the culture of old Vienna, that urbane, tolerant, sophisticated and brilliant
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Tony
It would be wrong to criticize the author, who held this back from publication. It's disjointed and incomplete, as Zweig surely knew. It deserves a fragmented review. And I'm the obliging type.

First the bromides. Or axioms, or samplers. Those things that you read and nod to, but on second glance, well, here:

-- Happy people are poor psychologists.

-- Malice is always lucky.

-- The subject of a rumor is always the last to hear it.

-- It's one of the few advantages of age that one is rarely wrong
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Orsolya
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The themes present in life during the grips of post-WWI stricken Austria (poverty, death, sickness, class distinctions); are sadly harsh realties that are also relatable in the modern day. Stefan Zweig explores the story of Christine, a poor 28-year-old Austrian woman who briefly enjoys the lap of luxury with her Aunt on a vacation but then is sent back to her lower-class private hell in, “The Post-Office Girl”.

Zweig’s “The Post Office Girl” is nothing short of a literary classic—a masterpiece
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Anna
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to read something by Stefan Zweig because his writing was apparently the inspiration for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, one my favourite films of 2014. I picked ‘The Post Office Girl’ because a brief plot description proved intriguing: an impoverished young woman works at a post office. She is whisked away from her life of drudgery for a holiday by a rich relative, then has to go back to her old life. A simple plot, but one rife with dramatic possibility. From the Wes Anderson film, I ...more
Kat
4.5 This book wrecked me. I need to collect my thoughts.
Versha
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
“Happiness can reach a pitch so great that any further happiness can’t be felt. Pain, despair, humiliation, disgust, and gear are no different.”

What a beautifully dark and heart-wrenching tale this was! Like other Stefan Zweig novels that i have read even this had a strange impact on me. I felt restless while reading this. Neither i could continue reading nor could I stop. I loved the way how he forces his readers to get involved with his characters and their story even if they don’t want to
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Anne
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2012, nyrb, austria
The Post Office Girl is a story about a poor, young postal worker, Christine, who gets the chance of a lifetime to have a very brief, but wonderfully transforming vacation from her poverty-stricken life. She is allowed to taste luxury and all that money can buy in a world of wealth and happiness she has never known. This story takes place in Austria after WW1 and is an indictment against Austrian society, or society in general, and the way it allowed the soldiers of WW1 and their families to ...more
Julie
7.5/10

What a strange and powerful -- and ultimately disappointing -- novel this is! I kept thinking how I would have enjoyed it, had it been made into a film. The awkward and unworkable layers would have been stripped clean and one would have been left with a diamond, no longer in the rough.

The "unworkable layers" cannot be ascribed to Zweig alone (or at all?) since this was a work published posthumously, having been on the writer's table for more than a decade, in the 1930s, while he
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Mikki
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nyrb, austria


" ...But it might be better not to know you're so poor, so disgustingly poor and wretched." -- Christine


This story, which takes place in Austria following World War One, centers around Christine (a lowly post office worker) and the internal psychological warfare she battles over the widened gaps between the social classes and economic equality. At 28, she lives a dreary, poverty-stricken existence dividing her time between work and caring for an ailing mother in their shared one room dwelling.
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Tsung
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9 (NIV)

This is a brilliant, thought provoking novel. It is a story of the haves and the have-nots, a story of contrasting fortunes. Yet there is no moral high ground. No one is right or wrong. The rich are supercilious and shallow. The
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Kusaimamekirai
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-germany
This is my first Stefan Zweig book and it certainly won’t be my last. I’m at a loss as to how I had never heard of him before this short but powerful novel.
Set in 1926 Austria, this is the story of 28 year old Christine, an unassuming and impoverished civil servant barely scraping by and with no prospects on her horizon. It is a world best described as:

“Every morning when I go to work I see people coming out of their front doors, underslept, cheerless, their faces blank, see them going to
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Caroline
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Would it really be a kindness to take a person living their entire life thus far in dull poverty and transport them for 8 days into the very lap of capitalistic luxury, in full knowledge that at the end of the vacation, they would be returned to their previous life?

Christine was one such person, living in post-war Austria with her ailing mother, knowing nothing but poverty and a dreary job in her little town's post office. Her wealthy American aunt, having a sudden attack of conscience, decides
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Declan
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nyrb
I liked this book a lot. It has many excellent qualities and it's themes and implications resonate as strongly now as when it was written. We live in a time when people are suddenly elevated to the vapid realms of celebrity because they have appeared on a particular television programme; had a liaison with a President or marry someone wealthy. The newspapers which feel they have delivered fame to these people always follow the trajectory of an arc. The adoration reaches a peak and then, with ...more
Chuck LoPresti
May 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Most of the positive reaction to this book involves the setting, the time, the basic concept of Cinderella at the ball and some mention of the fact that it is "well written". Faced with a wealth of reviews you have the ability to make an informed decision about reading this, if you pay attention closely. What you don't hear about is the fact that Zweig leads the reader through each predictable situation by the nose, elimininating the engagement that might otherwise be present in a book that ...more
Beth Asmaa
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Author examined the 1920s Austrian conditions and mentality. The characters, Christine and Ferdinand, are at an impasse in their youthful lives. Both (twenty-eight to thirty years old) remember better, hopeful times of earned prosperity and landed security, but that was innocently lost through a force external to them (WWI and its conditions afterward) through no fault of their own and is without recourse to reclaim it. While Christine has meager but steady employment in a village post office ...more
Rebecka
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked how I didn't know where this was going for the longest time. Right up until the end, really.

Oh, the bitterness! I loved it. So many quotable passages.

(view spoiler)
Joachim Stoop
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Novel in two parts. The second part gave the story an extra dimension and a 5th star.

After having read Zweig's "Chess Story", his memoir “The World of Yesterday” and his fabulous "Shooting Stars" (collection of small historical episodes with huge impact) it's getting impossible for me not to regard Zweig as one of the most underrated writers of the 20th century (I know he was popular in his own time, but I mean he's underrated nowadays, in Goodreads-era)
Each of these four (above mentioned) books
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Brendan Monroe
A remarkable book by a remarkable man. It's said that Zweig, finding himself stuck after finishing the first part of this book, abandoned it, only to return to it some years later. The second part of the book is, perhaps tellingly then, completely different in tone to the first.

They almost seem like two parts of two completely different books, but they are both brilliant and, put together, the reader undergoes a shock halfway in similar to that that Christine undergoes.

Young Christine Hoflehner
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Susan
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5*
There is a saying which tells us that what we've never had, we will never miss, which is probably true, but once having experienced the good life, how can anyone return to a boring and mundane existence without a sense of longing for what has been lost....
Christine, an impoverished post office worker in a small Austrian town, is to learn that for her, this saying is proved to be heartbreakingly true, because having been given a taste of the pleasures money can buy, and then having those
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Hristian Trendafilov
Style
I enjoy Stefan Zweig. His writing is always perfumed, but just in the right amount and I never seem to get enough of it. Yet this work was a bit different. There were no stories in a story, no personal narrative, almost no manic love, apart from a few scenes. There was no big love story.

About identity
In fact it was mostly about identity. About one's identity and society. Christine, ravaged by poverty receives the chance to experience a whole new different world and she duly follows. A
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Stefan Zweig was one of the world's most famous writers during the 1920s and 1930s, especially in the U.S., South America, and Europe. He produced novels, plays, biographies, and journalist pieces. Among his most famous works are Beware of Pity, Letter from an Unknown Woman, and Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles. He and his second wife committed suicide in 1942.

Zweig studied in Austria,
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“Time to leave now, get out of this room, go somewhere, anywhere; sharpen this feeling of happiness and freedom, stretch your limbs, fill your eyes, be awake, wider awake, vividly awake in every sense and every pore.” 2167 likes
“For this quiet, unprepossessing, passive man who has no garden in front of his subsidised flat, books are like flowers. He loves to line them up on the shelf in multicoloured rows: he watches over each of them with an old-fashioned gardener's delight, holds them like fragile objects in his thin, bloodless hands.” 49 likes
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