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The World of Yesterday

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  10,182 ratings  ·  981 reviews
Stefan Zweig's memoir, The World of Yesterday, recalls the golden age of prewar Europe - its seeming permanence, its promise and its devastating fall with the onset of two world wars. Zweig's passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the brink of extinction. It is an unusually humane account of Europe from the closing years ...more
Paperback, 461 pages
Published October 1st 1964 by University of Nebraska Press (first published 1941)
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Leani By default Goodreads shows reviews of all editions together. To filter, select "editions: all" or "editions: this edition" immediately below the…moreBy default Goodreads shows reviews of all editions together. To filter, select "editions: all" or "editions: this edition" immediately below the "Community Reviews" heading.(less)

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Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kris by: Ted
I have been struggling to write this review. I have a draft that keeps growing, with more quotes, more of my analysis, more words -- but as I write more, I worry that I am getting further away from Stefan Zweig, further away from this beautiful, sad, angry, insightful, anguished text.

So am I scrapping all those words, and starting over.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) wrote The World of Yesterday in desperate times. The unconventional memoir is a cri de coeur from Zweig, who stood for everything Hitler
If you had to live inside one of the following pictures, which one would you choose?

Choice A:

Pre-War Paris

Choice B:

Soliders in WWI Trench

.... I am going to assume that aside from either the excuse of insanity or... no I really can't think of another excuse, we're all on board with Choice A, yes?

Let's try this one more time. Just to make sure, okay? One more time. You have two choices:

Choice A:

Summer Lawn Party, 1920s

Choice B:
Soldiers in Swastika Formation

... Honestly, I am not trying to trick you. Once again, unless you are crazy, we're good with Choice A, yes?

All right then. I'm
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stefan-zweig
Utterly brilliant!


I feel turned inside out after finishing Stefan Zweig's memoir of a world that was in the process of self-destruction when he decided to commit suicide in exile and put the last words on paper. How incredibly amazing his life was, surrounded by the writers, musicians and artists of his time. The reflections on his friendships with Verhaeren or Romain Rolland read like a collection of exquisite anecdotes of the sum total of cultural life in the 20th century. How
...after all, shadows themselves are born of light.

...toda sombra es, al fin y al cabo, hija de la luz.


There are people who breathe nostalgia every day. They enjoy it, they suffer it. They stare at some object and thousands of memories come to mind. People, friends, lovers, happiness, regrets. They are usually looking back wishing for the past to become present again. For that little part of the world they knew and that it felt much safer than the one they inhabit today. Nostalgia has a life
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"What a man has taken into his bloodstream in childhood from the air of that time stays with him."

I found it hard to write a review for this book. There was just so much I wanted to say.

A very nostalgic autobiography was what we were presented with here. I appreciated reading an account on how differently things were before the war. In the security chapter I couldn't help but be reminded of the Margaret McMillan talk I attended this Spring and how she said this period before WW1 was a very
Once more I wandered down to the town to have a last look at peace.

Time is an invincible enigma. Every moment brings something new for us to keep our faith intact while every new day brutally shatters the long held belief about matters dear to one’s life. This paradoxical existence of seemingly benign hands of minutes, seconds and hours have made people witness the extent of human compassion as well as the chasm of inhuman atrocities; and when the smoke from glowing and extinguished embers of

Several reviews have been written recently by my GRFriends on this book. To mention just a few, we have already those wonderful ones by: Kris, Elena, Yann, Garima..

There is therefore very little I can add. I will just write down a few thoughts.

I was struck that these memoirs contained a lot less about himself than I would have expected. And although he follows the chronology of his lifetime, he does not give many dates, nor does he refer to many external or even personal events. There is
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the cacophony of the world
"I am now a writer who, as Grillparzer said, 'walks behind his corpse in his own lifetime.'" -Stefan Zweig

After reading Zweig's Journey into the Past and Confusion, I now understand the plight of those characters in his novellas when I read these words in his memoir: "I am always most attracted to the character who is struck down by fate in my novellas…" I've admired Zweig's permeance of the novella art form, and his stories that linger with psychological palpability. He's made me take
This is a poignant portrait of a "world of yesterday", specifically the world of turn-of-the century Vienna, and of European culture prior to the First World War. Stefan Zweig was born in Vienna in 1881, and was thus a young man during the decade preceding the War. His family was well off, and he was brought up surrounded by culture of every kind. He is now a writer mostly forgotten [correction - becoming famous again on Goodreads, at least among my friends], but one who was judged in the 1920s ...more
Before I went to Vienna over Easter, I began reading Stefan Zweig’s memoir, The World of Yesterday. The book informed my trip and made me imagine the Vienna of 1910 before the world went over the edge, or at least before Europe did. This is very much a European memoir, and to my mind it ought to be required reading for all Europeans, in fact for everyone who considers themselves citizens of the world and who do not define themselves, as Zweig did not, by means of the narrow and excluding ...more
Lee Klein
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd been having trouble settling into a string of novels, too impatient and restless and dissatisifed even with Tolstoy's Resurrection, zoning out, not looking forward to reading at all. Finally I said screw it and grabbed Zweig's memoir. By the time I'd made it through his preface it was like he'd administered a heaping dose of just what I need into my unsettled reading organ. I really did feel immediately healed, wanting nothing other than to settle down with Zweig's flowing sentences, his ...more
Manuel Antão
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2002
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Extraordinary Coincidences: "The World of Yesterday" by Stefan Zweig

(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,
Roy Lotz
Memoires often make the best travel books. I began this book in preparation for a short trip to Vienna, and quickly discovered that I had chosen well. Whatever your opinion of Zweig, The World of Yesterday is worth reading simply for the wealth of information it contains. Few history books paint so rich and full a picture of European culture during these transformative years—above all, in Paris, Berlin, and Zweig’s original home of Vienna—from the peaceful span preceding the First World War, to ...more
I am clearly a bit of a sucker for nostalgia: I am mildly obsessed with vintage-style clothes, mid-century modern kitchen knick-knacks and I am actively looking for an antique typewriter and gramophone to decorate my library. But my nostalgia is purely aesthetic: I know good and well that everyone wearing hats and gloves did not make the world a more wholesome place (just a more elegant one), and that beautiful old cars are an environmental disaster no matter how cool they look. But it is hard ...more
Such Abounding Beauty; Such Utter Sadness and Despair Thereafter

The World of Yesterday is the inimitably enriching and terrifically enthralling literary memoir of Stefan Zweig, an Austrian writer who was the world's most popular in the 1930s until he was forced by increasing Nazi pressure to flee continental Europe in 1934 and emigrate to England, the United States and ultimately Brazil.

Zweig's gorgeous descriptions and memories sweep the reader into the Hapsburg empire of the early 20th
We failed to see the writing on the wall in letters of fire. Like King Belshazzar before us, we dined on the delicious dishes of the arts and never looked apprehensively ahead.

At one point during the first half of the 20th century, two Austrians would take residence in the high and remote corners of the Alps, almost exactly opposite one another. Both were at one time living in the Austrian capital of Vienna, though their experiences have been remarkably different - one wanted to be an artist,
Feb 07, 2011 rated it liked it
I was somewhat disappointed in this one, and ended up skipping around a lot. This old (and anonymous) translation is stiff and quite unappealing, and while there are certainly many interesting stories, there is also a looseness in the prose and the book runs on a bit verbosely.

There are some very interesting insights in the Hitler chapter, but Zweig soon escaped and lived in relative peace, and so was not the best witness (as he admits) for the events he subsequently lived through.

He seems to
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Erwin by: Kalliope
This memoir is an exceptionally beautiful piece of art and literature! Stefan Zweig takes his readers on a journey of a lifetime (literally too). He succeeds to capture the Zeitgeist of more than half a century (and what a time indeed: the final years of the 19th century, the Great War and the years leading up to the Second World War) and makes it come alive. It was hard to put the book down before going to sleep at nights. I regretted Having to leave the book untouched for days because of work ...more
Tanja Berg
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
I was so sorry having finished this book that my first instinct was to listen to it again, immediately. I have rarely read such a profoundly insightful book.

Stefan Zweig is an Austrian author, Jewish. Born in 1881, at the height of his career he was one of the most popular writers in the world. I read and enjoyed some of his works in my teens. This, however, is a book I came across on my desperate search for audio books. I took just one brief look, and knew I had to have it.

Stefan wrote this
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished the autobiography of Stefan Zweig with a very heavy heart. How clearly he describes the returning mechanism of looking away nationwide and ignoring the signs that devastation is just around the corner. His personal account saddened me more than I can convey.
Apr 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
As an Autrian-Jewish writer who experienced both World Wars and encountered numerous influencial and interesting people in his life, I expected Zweig would have a facinating story to tell. I found his autobiographical work very boring however, and mostly filled with tediously written descriptions of Zweig's own importance and greatness. The following, almost satirical quote, illustrates my point I think:*

Es ist ein unablässiges Ballast-über-Bord werfen, ein ständiges Verdichten und Klären der
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There’s something a bit over-wrought in Zweig’s writing I find. I’m not sure quite how else to describe it but it doesn’t quite ring true. The opening chapter on schoolboy connoisseurs is absurd. The material about the period immediately after the First World War is sometimes the most interesting though the book itself tends to be sold on the basis of it being an evocative account of fin de siècle Habsburg Vienna. I confess I didn’t feel moved by his account of that pre-WWI period and others ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in memoirs, European history
Recommended to Sue by: Kris
I have delayed writing this review in hopes that some inspiration will come (perhaps writing it for me) but no, I do have to perform the task from my own brain. This is perhaps one of the most melancholy memoirs I've read. While Zweig provides an often golden-hued picture of the Europe of his youth, the turn of the century Vienna of the final years of the Hapsburg Empire, he also tells us of his (sometimes impersonal) memories of life in Austria during and after The Great War, the years of ...more
Feb 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Oh, Zweig offers such a marvellous, seductive portrait of the period 1890-1914 through the eyes of a celebrated Austrian-Jewish writer, that you cannot but enjoy it thoroughly. The whole 'fine fleur' of European culture passes by, and that is impressive. It makes you eager to step into a time machine and jump back to Paris, London, Berlin and Vienna and take part in this intensive cosmopolitan culture from before the First World War.

But, unfortunetaly, a small warning is in place here: Zweig
Louise Poole
May 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
I tried very hard to appreciate this book but found the language so cumbersome.
Lynne King
On this link is the definitive review, I feel, by Kris and the reason why I read this book in the first place:

This is the most wonderful book imaginable. I really cannot say anything further.

How can I possibly expound being a mere mortal on what this individual went through in his life and then finally to commit suicide with his wife in a joint pact. Such philosophical thoughts. It's mind blowing.

An absolutely remarkable book. I actually confess to being
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
On Stefan Zweig, "Die Welt von gestern": I just put the book down a few moments ago. Normally I like to marinate in a text a while before commenting. Zweig, unlike Thomas Mann, wrote in a spontaneous, fluid, conversational, druckreif style, and deserves an immediate unlabored impression. And the impression is one of overwhelming loss. In fact he lost his world twice. Reading this in 2014, exactly 100 years since his world fell apart the first time, makes me realize how fragile our culture is. ...more
Sanjay Varma
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it
I read the first hundred pages or so which painted a vivid picture of life in the waning days of the Hapsburg empire, the patronage of arts, the stability and security felt by everyone, the Jewish community's dynamism, and schooling and university. The book continues from there but it leaves Austria and I felt a bit ambivalent to continue since the next events were the fulfillment of many Nazi party policies of aggression. The fact that Zweig and his wife both committed suicide during the war, ...more
May 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Well I'm not really sure what I thought about this one. I found it very interesting reading about the period that Zweig was describing, and his life in Austria and other places in Europe from the late 19th century onwards. It was fascinating how many well-known people he knew during his life up to 1942, just two examples are Rainer Maria Rilke and Maxim Gorky. But, oh dear, I did find this long winded. I had to smile to myself when Zweig wrote that one of the reasons his novels were popular, ...more
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On reading this book, my first thought is that this is much more than a biography. It is a portrait of an era and a love letter to Stefan Zweig’s beloved Europe; written after he was forced into exile by the onslaught of fascism. However, the book begins with Zweig growing up in Austria, prior to WWI, in, what he terms, the Golden Age of Security. Austria seemed to have a stable government and consistency in the Habsburg monarchy. There was a sense of order and everyone knew their place in ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Could you please add the page number 3 11 Sep 27, 2018 08:57AM  
Stefan Zweig and the Holocaust 11 41 Nov 04, 2014 09:26AM  
Bright Young Things: August 2014- The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig 57 41 Oct 20, 2014 09:03AM  
Goodreads Librari...: New Edition 3 18 Jul 09, 2014 01:39PM  

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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,
“Only the person who has experienced light and darkness, war and peace, rise and fall, only that person has truly experienced life.” 162 likes
“For I regard memory not as a phenomenon preserving one thing and losing another merely by chance, but as a power that deliberately places events in order or wisely omits them. Everything we forget about our own lives was really condemned to oblivion by an inner instinct long ago.” 73 likes
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