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The World of Yesterday

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The World of Yesterday, mailed to his publisher a few days before Stefan Zweig took his life in 1942, has become a classic of the memoir genre. Originally titled “Three Lives,” the memoir describes Vienna of the late Austro-Hungarian Empire, the world between the two world wars and the Hitler years.

Translated from the German by Benjamin W. Huebsch and Helmut Ripperger; with an introduction by Harry Zohn, 34 illustrations, a chronology of Stefan Zweig’s life and a new bibliography, by Randolph Klawiter, of works by and about Stefan Zweig in English.

“The best single memoir of Old Vienna by any of the city’s native artists.” — Clive James

“A book that should be read by anyone who is even slightly interested in the creative imagination and the intellectual life, the brute force of history upon individual lives, the possibility of culture and, quite simply, what it meant to be alive between 1881 and 1942.” — The Guardian

“It is not so much a memoir of a life as it is the memento of an age.” — The New Republic

461 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1942

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About the author

Stefan Zweig

1,642 books8,011 followers
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, France, and Germany before settling in Salzburg in 1913. In 1934, driven into exile by the Nazis, he emigrated to England and then, in 1940, to Brazil by way of New York. Finding only growing loneliness and disillusionment in their new surroundings, he and his second wife committed suicide.
Zweig's interest in psychology and the teachings of Sigmund Freud led to his most characteristic work, the subtle portrayal of character. Zweig's essays include studies of Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, and Fyodor Dostoevsky (Drei Meister, 1920; Three Masters) and of Friedrich Hölderlin, Heinrich von Kleist, and Friedrich Nietzsche (Der Kampf mit dem Dämon, 1925; Master Builders). He achieved popularity with Sternstunden der Menschheit (1928; The Tide of Fortune), five historical portraits in miniature. He wrote full-scale, intuitive rather than objective, biographies of the French statesman Joseph Fouché (1929), Mary Stuart (1935), and others. His stories include those in Verwirrung der Gefühle (1925; Conflicts). He also wrote a psychological novel, Ungeduld des Herzens (1938; Beware of Pity), and translated works of Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, and Emile Verhaeren.
Most recently, his works provided the inspiration for 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,063 reviews
Profile Image for Kris.
175 reviews1,449 followers
March 31, 2013
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 most hated and feared. Born to a wealthy Jewish family, well-educated, speaker of many languages, famous both in his native Austria and throughout the West from the many translations of his novels, stories, and other writings, Zweig believed passionately in the vital need for an international community of artists. He had escaped from his home in Austria, driven out by the oppression and hatred of the Nazis. Shaken, exhausted, anguished, he wrote the book not to discuss his two marriages, or to focus on his personal relationships and feelings. Instead, Zweig wrote a memoir of a place, Austria, and a time gone by. In every word, he is grieving for his lost homeland, and even more for an unrealized ideal.

Written from the perspective of a man who grew up in the waning days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who lost his innocence in World War I, and believed for a brief time that Europeans had learned their lesson and had put an end to future wars, The World of Yesterday is a lament, a work honoring a dead and buried past, and a suicide note. One day after his second wife mailed the manuscript to Zweig's publisher, the two took poison and died in each other's arms in Brazil, too exhausted to wait for better days that they feared wold never come.

Stefan Zweig and his brother Alfred in Vienna, c. 1900

Stefan Zweig was once one of the best known writers in the German language. His works were widely translated and popular across Europe. Zweig was prolific, engaged in the arts every way he could be. He wrote not only short stories and novels, but also works of non-fiction (including immense, carefully researched biographies of Balzac and Mary Stuart), plays, and libretti. He also worked as a translator, which may have helped him to foster relationships with writers from across Europe. His travels provided him with rich experiences in his younger years, and enabled hm to forge lasting friendships with many writers and artists, In the end, though, he loved having a home in Austria. He was brought up in the rich cultural life of Vienna before World War. As an adolescent he was caught up in a flurry of adoration for Hoffmansthal, and he later forged a friendship with Rilke. He watched Rodin work in his studio, and he admired and respected Freud. His early writings were published by Theodor Herzl, among others.

Zweig was a lifelong pacifist, who was apolitical at heart. His orientation to the world around him was influenced by his commitment to the ideal of Europe as a cultural community, where artists from many countries would support and draw inspiration from each other, create a shared international culture, and guard diligently against intolerance and war. He valued creativity and freedom of expression. He was notoriously hard on himself and modest, despite his eventual fame. He spent his money building up a valuable library and collecting autographs and manuscripts that captured moments of creativity from Europe's greatest artists. (This library was later destroyed by the Nazis.) He traveled, he wrote, he corresponded with friends, he was inspired and driven to do his best by their example.

Bookplate from Stefan Zweig’s library

Zweig was shaken to his core by the onset of World War I, which broke apart his safe, insulated world. He managed to continue to correspond with some friends in France and Italy, but he was worried about the censors. A trip to Switzerland to meet with other artists committed to pacifism was complicated by the ubiquity of government spies, alert to the possibility of treason. After the war was over, Zweig worried about losing old friendships until he was greeted affectionately by old friends during a trip to Italy. Zweig describes his friendships with writers such as Romain Rolland and Rilke. He opens a window into his world, full of books, ideas, music, ideals, friends, debates, art of all kinds.

Stefan Zweig and his first wife, Friderike Maria von Winternitz (née Burger)-- married 1920, divorced 1938 but remained in contact

Zweig also provides chilling descriptions of the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. Zweig's memoir is particularly insightful in conveying the experiences of a renowned writer, at the top of his popularity, when he became a focus for the brutal hatred of the Nazis. Any readers concerned about the consequences of censorship for a free society should read Zweig's account of this period.

Stefan Zweig and his second wife, Lotte Altmann (his secretary) -- married 1939, committed suicide together in Brazil in 1942

The World of Yesterday is a devastating book, but it is also illuminating. Zweig's perspective, looking back to his earlier years in the last decades of peace in Europe, transported me back to a vibrant Vienna, where culture was valued above all else. He also warns about the ways in which complacency helped to lead to World War I, as Europeans were living their lives with blind trust in their governments. His insights on the cultural conditions that lead to the rise to totalitarianism extend to his discussion of the rise of Hitler. Throughout, Zweig provides details and anecdotes from his experiences to add color to his more analytical passages. He writes with passion, warmth, modesty, anger, and anguish.

Stefan Zweig

Today, we live in a world where, in spite of globalization, strife, hatred, greed, and ignorance are barriers to the kind of internationalism that Zweig dreamed of. When faced with economic downturns, some nations look to cuts in funding for the arts as a partial solution. Parents and special interest groups sometimes call for the censorship of books, music, films, and art that pose threats to their professed values. I fear that Zweig would not be surprised by the lasting relevance of The World of Yesterday in the early 21st century. Reading it is one way to continue his quest, to turn back hatred and intolerance, one line at a time.

I want to give Zweig the last word by quoting a passage in which he is reflecting on the day when Germany invaded Poland, when Zweig was living in exile in England:

"For was a more absurd situation imaginable than for a man in a strange land to be compulsorily aligned – solely on the ground of a faded birth certificate – with a Germany that had long ago expelled him because his race and ideas branded him as anti-German and to which, as an Austrian, he had never belonged. By a stroke of a pen the meaning of a whole life had been transformed into a paradox; I wrote, I still thought in the German language, but my every thought and wish belonged to the countries which stood in arms for the freedom of the world. Every other loyalty, all that was past and gone, was torn and destroyed and I knew that after this war everything would have to take a fresh start. For my most cherished aim to which I had devoted all the power of my conviction for forty years, the peaceful union of Europe, had been defiled. What I had feared more than my own death, the war of all against all, now had become unleashed for the second time. And one who had toiled heart and soul all his life for human and spiritual unity found himself, in this hour which like no other demanded inviolable unity, thanks to this precipitate singling out, superfluous and alone as never before in his life.... I knew what war meant, and as I looked at the well-filled, tidy shops I had an abrupt vision of those of 1918, cleared-out and empty, seemingly staring at one with wide-open eyes. As in a waking dream I saw the long queues of careworn women before the food shops, the mothers in mourning, the wounded, the cripples, the whole nightmare of another day returned spectrally in the shining noonday light. I recalled our old soldiers, weary and in rags, how they had come back from the battlefield, – my beating heart felt the whole past war in the one that was beginning today and which still hid its terror from our eyes. Again I was aware that the past was done for, work achieved was in ruins, Europe, our home, to which we had dedicated ourselves had suffered a destruction that would extend far beyond our life. Something new, a new world began, but how many hells, how many purgatories had to be crossed before it could be reached!"
Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews4,025 followers
July 21, 2014
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 just making sure. And so is Zweig. Because unfortunately, he lived through an era when enough people decided that they had some reason that would justify Choice B. Twice. He's written hundreds and hundreds of pages asking, at an increasingly loud volume and withrising hysteria, whether we are really sure that we wouldn't like Choice A after all. Because he's not insane. He just had the misfortune to live at a time when it seemed like the world had become insane.

* * *
Stefan Zweig was born into the world of Belle Epoque Vienna, in the last glory days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It was a precarious, creaking political enterprise, with several different nationalities, ethnicities, languages and administrative systems all cobbled together under Emperor Franz Joseph in its capital of Vienna. But there, like the Belle Epoque era in Paris, another creaky empire/republic/whatever they were at the time that was enjoying a long era of relative peace, there was no reason to know any of this. He was born into a Jewish family (which as you can imagine will become important later) in Vienna and lived the somewhat spoiled, pampered lifestyle of the upper middle class of the city. He was able to spend his young years devoted to reading and exploring as much of the rich intellectual life of the city as he desired, to spend his teenage years lusting after the celebrities of the Viennese stage and concert halls(there's a wonderful chapter where he describes the proto-fanboy culture of the time), and to indulge his Serious Debates of Ideas with his friends as often as he liked. He also, of course, was free to begin developing his writing, which would become his Art. (Always with a capital 'A', and he will thank you to remember it.)

Sure, there were conflicts, but generally as for what went on with the outside world, fundamentally that was only something they read in the newspaper, it did not come knocking at their door. There was probably a war of some kind in progress somewhere in their time, but only a little one. In that era, the world was honestly convinced that it was on the direct and infallible road to the best of all possible worlds. A general opinion existed that we had entered the 'Age of Reason' or what Zweig calls the 'Age of Security': for the individual, not the state.

The life Zweig describes living in pre-WWI Europe is strikingly similar to a modern, privileged upbringing (if one is particularly smart or talented that is). His childhood years were boring and safe, in the care of a somewhat repressive school that tried to 'mold' him, he rebelled (within reason) in his teenage years and chose to become a writer rather than a businessman, and after a rather astonishing early success, went on study abroad in turn-of-the-century Berlin, doing a small grand tour of Paris, London, and other cities in the meantime. He goes so far as to earnestly tell the reader that he had read, I swear to God, Scenes de la vie Boheme and came to Berlin to live them out in reality while pretending to go to college (and in reality going to the "university of life"- again, I swear to God). He meets writers and editors and artists and develops an international colleague base for himself while he is sewing his version of wild oats (which mostly seems to involve interacting with women who were "free and natural" and kneeling at the altar of various artists he meets.) He could have been any Serious Intellectual college student of today, with very similar values and a very similar lifestyle.

As with most memoirs when a writer looks back on their young days, there is a very strong rosy-tinted hue to these reminiscences. Here, Zweig takes that tendency to an extreme. Practically every place he goes and every person he meets is described with the strongest possible adjectives. Something doesn't interest him, it "fascinates him inordinately", he decides not to go to class because "I did not meet a single man there whose knowledge would have held me spellbound". In Paris, this is how he describes the scene: "workers cheerfully went on about the smartest of boulevards in their blue blouses... a young couple might start dancing in the street any time, not just on the fourteenth of July, with a policeman smiling at them- the street was common property!" A sentence is not complete without some form of emphasis on a word, some adverb or adjective. I can't count the number of times he is "fascinated" or feeling "extremely" something-or-other, or a man he meets is the most "brilliant" and "indescribably" wonderful something. One famous Viennese actor, for example, is described as "even in private conversation, articulating every word clearly, every constant being sharply pronounced, every vowel full and clear." He claims that he still hears poems he read then, twenty years before, in this actor's voice. Normally, this would mostly be the sign of an old man looking back to the Good Old Days, like I said. And that aspect did wear on me after awhile, I have to say. (Too many adjectives spoil the broth.)

However, it also obviously serves a political purpose. This memoir was written in 1942. He is looking back over an era so different by comparison that every single adjective must have seemed justified at the time. It is hard not to remember that when reading this. It's that old story about how beautiful the summer of 1914 was (doesn't everybody say that?), but just stretched out over hundreds of pages. It's an argument and a lament for a world that doesn't seem to understand what it has lost- not just once, but twice. Even for a modern reader, with all my skepticism of unreliable narrators and biases, it actually did give me pause to think about what progress might have been like in every day life if Zweig can describe something so close to how we live today happening nearly a century ago. It makes me wonder, in a Spengler-esque sort of way, if we're nearing the same stage his society was at in the cycle of our culture, if we just took a big step back and are just getting back there now, or perhaps just how long it takes ideals developed in certain liberal corners and circles to develop.

The story of the years 1914-1939 has been drilled into all of our heads too much to need it to be told again. If asked, I am sure we'd all tell the same sort of elegy and once upon a time tale that's been passed on to us. (It starts with bourgeois security and economic expansion, industrial advancement and socialist slogans, and then provides shades of nationalism on the rise and border brushfires growing larger in the Balkans, builds to entangled alliances and desperate telegrams and the shot heard around the world. And that's just chapter one.)

But what Zweig provides is not only the first hand account of someone who lived through it all, and did it in a few different countries under several different governments, but he specifically provides a first hand account of much of the creative, literary life of this era. He was a very popular writer in the interwar era, so I understand, and was given welcome and friendship by many other artists and important people of the era. He developed close relationships with many of them over the years and is able to give first-hand reports of the character and and thinking of many of them. Some examples of people he had a personal acquaintances or interactions with are: Theodore Herzl, Romain Rolland, Rilke, Yeats, James Joyce, a Belgian artist called Emile Verhaeren who he works for for a time, Rodin, Paul Valery, Gorky, Sigmund Freud, Shaw and HG Wells and Richard Strauss.

Zweig comes from an earlier era that worshiped the idea of individual genius. You know that scene in Proust where Marcel is talking to all these military friends of Saint-Loup's about battle strategy, and he isn't really interested in it until someone can show him how the whole thing is the work of an individual genius, a Napoleon? Zweig is like that. He collects famous signatures and, later, the efforts of the "creative mind at work" of artists (generally their edited manuscripts.) He wants to see the moment when "genius" and "the immortal" comes into being. It's actually quite sweetly idealistic, the way the he worships Art as this thing outside of the brain that is almost spiritual, that comes from the ether somewhere. But it also makes sure that he can't interact with these guys without bowing before them. His love of adjectives is all over the place here. Each one of these guys is described in painstaking and breathless detail. It is just striking how much of a fanboy he still is, even in his adult years (one must remember he is writing this at 60). He had a real belief in the idea that these artists were like little gods come to life. Not a single one of them comes off the worse for wear under his pen- most of them have their positive legends added to, as a matter of fact. Nothing could be more glowing than his reviews of each and every one of them. It was a little famewhore-y, actually, I have to say. He seems like he'd be one of those guys in Vogue or Vanity Fair who get paid to write about going to parties with fabulous famous people, mentioning all the big names and places in bold letters just to make it clear how In The Know they are.

It was interesting though. I learned that Rilke was a sensitive sort who couldn't bear loud noises but tried to volunteer to go to the front in 1914 anyway. James Joyce was exactly the sort of person you'd think he would be. Romain Rolland was a pacifist, Herzl a literary editor who grew only gradually into his role as a leader of the Zionist movement. There's a great story about how he goes to Rodin's studio and stands there, forgotten, while Rodin obsessively fixes some perceived error in his statue, basically orgasming in place at the thought of seeing the god Genius at work again. Sigmund Freud comes off as a brilliant Cassandra that Zweig ranges himself with on the subject of the war and the inevitable nature of the beast inside us we all repress. There's a scene with Shaw and Wells that made me laugh. It sounded like me, at sixteen, going to see The Importance of Being Earnest for the first time. Zweig has a similar appreciation of polite English word fencing. Apparently they enacted the tea-and-cakes scene, but, you know, over books instead of men. It sounded really awesome, don't get me wrong. I just wish that he'd been a tad less breathless and crazy-eyed about the way he reported it. It might have actually served his purpose, which I assume was to make me regret that this wonderful literary world with all its gorgeous Genuises, no longer exists or can exist because of the wars, much better if he had been able to seem more clear eyed about it. I completely understand why he couldn't, and why he would have been in raptures about it all at the time- the contrast between that and his present life was just too much- but at some point it does make you want to sit back and ask what he's leaving out. Maybe it wasn't that wonderful after all, you know?

But because of his tone, I think perhaps my favorite scenes were the one or two times that he let himself be ambiguous about someone. These were the one or two times he let himself admit that he associated with someone or was involved, even peripherally, with something that wouldn't pass moral muster or doesn't deserve five-star reviews.

One story involved his association with Richard Strauss. Strauss, by Zweig's estimation is the "greatest living musician," in Germany at the time that the Nazis take over. He's also a man with a family trying to get by and stay on the safe side of the line he can walk in defiance of them. He gets in good with the Nazis early, so he can be secure of their support, and because of that he is tarnished with that brush. But Zweig, I think in large part because Strauss qualified for his pantheon of geniuses, wants to defend him. He knows he can't do so in an unqualified way, but he twists and turns himself into contortions trying to worship him as much as possible in spite of him. He praises him repeatedly for the work they did together on an opera in 1934 and especially his loyalty during that process. Strauss refused to have Zweig's (Jewish) name taken off the opera's program, despite the express displeasure of Goebbels and resigned from the National Council of Music he was on after they let the performance go forward and then quickly changed their minds after the opening. He offers tempered praise for the "at times enchanting" opera that the public was thereby deprived of from their "greatest musician." He mentions that descriptive phrase many times in those few paragraphs that he deals with this story. Even with the brush of the Nazis on him, Zweig is incapable of fully letting go of his urge to engage with the Art and ignore the rest.

The other incident that intrigued me was the one with Mussolini. Yes, that's right. Mussolini. Sometime in the '30s, Zweig is asked to be involved with a weird case. An Italian doctor's wife calls him and tells him that her husband has been sentenced to ten years' hard labor in a distant colony for one of those crimes that the Fascists mostly made up in those years. So she calls him to see if he can use his influence (?) which I guess she thinks he has, with friends at ministries, to get his sentence commuted. Understandably, none of his friends want to get involved. So Zweig writes Mussolini himself (because apparently he's a fan), setting out an argument for the guy. And Mussolini... agrees! Promptly! The guy's sentence is lessened, then halved, then done away with all together in the space of a year. And hilariously, Zweig's reaction is like: "Well, he may be a fascist and fascists are bad, but he did do this one cool thing one time and it wouldn't be fair of me not to tell you about that! So there! Mussolini! Helped me out one time!"

Both those stories seemed like they were a lot more indicative of the morally blurry, bizarre, arbitrary atmosphere that it is my understanding really existed at this time period, and especially the rather slippery personas that a lot of the "modern" artists of the time exuded. A lot less like Immortal Genius Come From Heaven, and a lot more like people riding the wave and using what they've got to get by. That and a lot of the stuff Zweig didn't talk about. Like how he supposedly fled Vienna ahead of the Anschluss in dread, seeing shades of things to come.... and left both his wife and his mother there, apparently not feeling the same urgency for them. Like how he tried to get married but couldn't because of the bureaucratic complications of being a "stateless person" in London in 1939. Like his odd friendship with Rathenau, apparently conducted entirely in moving vehicles and the spaces between appointments, watching a powerful mind NOT engaged exclusively with Art (but able to understand it), navigate the world. His pages long justification for going to the Front to see it for himself during WWI (sort of an early version of disaster tourism avant le mot) without sacrificing his pacifist stance was pretty fascinating as well.

I wish that, in addition to providing us with the glowing memories so that we knew what we were missing in 1942 as well as the dramatically staged tragedies at appropriate moments, he had felt able to tell us more about those messier moments in between more often. There was a lot of honesty here, a lot of joy and passion and delight and sorrow. I just wish he felt more comfortable complicating things for us and showing more things as they really were.

I feel like a little bit of an asshole for saying a lot of this. I think maybe its just that Zweig and I disagree a little bit about what the best way to make people want something or regret something is or differ in the ways that we say goodbye. Or, I am reading this in a far different headspace than he wrote it in. That could also be the problem. He is trying so incredibly hard to get me to cry over a world that is gone, full of angels on earth and wise men who will never come again, full of laughing cafes and women who cut their hair and raised their skirts, and he thinks the best way to do this is to praise Caesar, rather than bury him. He never got a chance to move beyond that. Perhaps that's the real tragedy here. He couldn't bear to get to the next part- the part where you wake up the next morning and remember the faults of the past. You remember all the other times that you thought it was all over and it could never be fixed again. You smile and remember how you danced once more, that the first war indeed did end. You look towards the future and towards a free, dancing Paris once more. Which, tragically for him, he never got to see again. And it did happen not so long later. But he never got to that part. He just got to the first stage of grief, I think.

I wanted so much to see him come out that other side and realize that it had never been that good. Which means that right now, as horrible a nightmare as it is, is not such a far fall. Which means that it can get better, and it has before. People are people with awful flaws who do just terrible things to each other and they will do that, probably forever. And that is being human. Even those geniuses he worshiped do not descend from Mount Olympus, which I imagine, if he thought for a minute, he knew. Everything was so black and white in his mind when he wrote this. One of the signs of severe depression, so I'm told.

Another sign is magical thinking. Which I guess is what this is, in the end. It seemed almost like he was trying to sprinkle the fairy dust of these better times all over himself, as if if he could paint the most flattering, shining portrait of it possible on the page, he could somehow conjure it up again. As if, before he was through, it might appear once more, or perhaps it might give him courage enough to go on. I don't know whether this is true or not, but it seems that way.

It's tragic that he didn't find it. I wish he had. I wish that he had let himself wake up another day after this one and see that suicide wasn't the only way out. Sometimes I wonder whether this would have been better. He died, as the translator of his volume notes, with no knowledge of the Holocaust. How would he have reacted to this further descent into depravity? But he also didn't get to see the world reborn. And, with all the joy and passion he displayed here, he certainly deserved that.
Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
756 reviews2,958 followers
May 16, 2023
ستيفان زفايغ..كاتب قريباً جداً لقلبي..قرأت هذا الكتاب عشان أعرفه أكتر وخلصت الكتاب وتقريباً معرفتش عنه إلا القليل!

عالم الأمس..كتاب يصنف علي إنه سيرة ذاتية أو مذكرات لزفايغ ولكني لم أراه كذلك...!
الكتاب عبارة عن توثيق لشكل أوروبا قبل الحرب العالمية الأولي وكيف كان يعيش الناس في سعادة وإستقرار وإزاي كانوا بيهتموا بالفن والثقافة والمسرح إلي أن قامت الحرب وغيرت شكل العالم وغيرت أيضاً معاها حياة زفايغ..

في ٣٥٠ صفحة من الحجم الكبير ،زفايغ بيتكلم
علي بداياته ككاتب ومترجم وشاعر و كيف بدأت كتبه في الإنتشار وكيف أيضاً مُنعت وحُرقت في زمن هتلر علي الرغم إنه كان بعيداً عن السياسة و لكنه كان يهودي الأصل...
في معظم الكتاب بيتكلم عن سفره للعديد من البلاد مثل فرنسا..الهند..روسيا ولندن ويحكي عن صداقاته مع الكثير من الشخصيات المهمة والأدباء مثل مكسيم غوركي،ريلكة،شترواس ،فرويد وغيرهم

هل إتكلم عن حياته الشخصية؟لأ..
هل إتكلم عن قصة حب عاشها مثلاً أو حتي عن زوجته؟لأ..
هل إتكلم عن كتبه وظروف كتابة رواياته ؟برضو لأ..
في هذا الكتاب زفايغ بيتكلم عن هتلر أحياناً... عن أصدقائه أحياناً أخري ..عن تأثير الحرب علي شكل أوروبا معظم الوقت ..و مش هو ده اللي أنا كنت مهتمة أعرفه...

الصراحة الكتاب ممل جداً لدرجة إني قريته تقريباً في إسبوعين وحسيت إني عمري ما حخلصه!
الكتاب في رغي وكلام كتير كان ممكن الإستغناء عنه و زفايغ نفسه بيقول إنه كان بيحب جداً يكتب كتب قصيرة ويختصر علي قد ما يقدر بس مش عارفة هنا واضح إنه كسر القاعدة..والنتيجة -بالنسبة لي علي الأقل-لم تكن مرضية...

إنتحر زفايغ مع زوجته عام ١٩٤٢ في البرازيل قبل نهاية الحرب العالمية الثانية وعلي الرغم إنه كان يعيش حياة حافلة إلا إن تأثير الحرب عليه كان من أسوأ ما يكون وفي رسالته الأخيرة كان يتمني لأصدقائه أن يروا الفجر بعد هذا الليل الطويل..

وأخيراً هو كتاب مهم..يقرأ علي مهل..في كمية معلومات لا بأس بها عن فترة تاريخية مهمة في أوروبا..صحيح معجبنيش أوي ولكن يظل كتاب يستحق القراءة...
Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 22 books25.4k followers
April 15, 2021
من أجمل كتب السيرة التي قرأتها، ينطلق من الخاص إلى العام، ومن العام إلى الكوني. تأملات مرهفة وحساسية نادرة في التناول والمعالجة. إضافة إلى جماله الفني.. قيمته الموضوعية لا يطالها الشك. اقرأوه
Profile Image for Lisa.
982 reviews3,327 followers
January 27, 2020
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 exciting to be part of his intellectual development in the Habsburg Monarchy, his coming of age in the shining light of Vienna's transformation to a modern city under the impression of writers like Hugo von Hofmannsthal or Arthur Schnitzler. How remarkable to register the resilience with which Stefan Zweig adjusted to the growing antisemitism and the anti-liberalism, and how painful to see one human right after the other disappear until THAT name pops up for the first time in the last third of the memoir, that name that changed the perception of human evil forever.

It is interesting to compare the life choices of Adolf Hitler and Stefan Zweig, both growing up at almost the same time in Austria, forming under the impression of the First World War and finally committing suicide for opposite reasons in their late 50s or early 60s, one in exile without seeing hope that the other will finally be overcome, the other three years later when realising he actually was defeated. The tragedy of political evil is the backdrop of this memoir, and it is told without knowing, as the reader does, that end of the terror is soon to come.

Despite the more than depressing reality, Stefan Zweig manages to tell the story of European unity, art and culture, and he does so with the mastery of a true poet. Each event is carefully described and given prominence among so many others, each encounter with a cultural personality is full of dignity and love.

In a way, this account gives hope. The same environment that created Hitler also created Stefan Zweig.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,002 reviews
March 5, 2022
نص رائع... مذكرات الأديب النمسوي ستيفان زفايج وحنين لعالم الأمس, عالم الأمن والسلام الذي عاشه قبل الحرب العالمية الأولى
الحياة العامرة بالكتب والشعر والمسرح والموسيقى والأصدقاء والمناقشات والسفر
الكتاب ليس مجرد سيرة لحياة واحد من أشهر الكُتاب باللغة الألمانية, لكنه أيضا عرض لفترة مهمة في تاريخ أوروبا من نهاية القرن التاسع عشر إلى عام 1941, يشمل الجوانب السياسية والحربية والثقافية والاجتماعية, وتحليل دقيق للأسباب التي أدت إلى الحربين العالميتين والفرق بينهما
رصد للحياة الأدبية والفنية, ومواقف وأعمال وصور لحياة مبدعين فنانين وأدباء من أصدقائه, وغيرهم الكثير ممن عايشهم والتقى بهم أو قرأ أعمالهم.

تشعر معه بالحزن والأسى وهو يصف اليوم الذي بدأت فيه الحرب الأولى, وجهوده هو وغيره من الأدباء لمناهضة الحرب وإدانة القتل والدمار
بعد انتهاء الحرب الأولى وما نتج عنها من انهيار وكساد وفوضى, وبعيدا عن التعصب والعداوات حاول استعادة عالمه المفقود بمواصلة كتاباته ونشاطاته الأدبية وأسفاره
وبعد سنوات وبوصول هتلر للحكم في ألمانيا بدأت مرحلة التشرد في حياة زفايج, رحيله من النمسا إلى انجلترا وأمريكا ثم إلى الوجهة الأخيرة البرازيل
وفي ذروة الحرب العالمية الثانية وحزنه لتمزق ودمار أوروبا, واستنزاف كل ما لديه من طاقة وأمل, أنهى حياته هو وزوجته بالانتحار عام 1942, متمنيا في رسالته الأخيرة لأصدقائه أن يتسنى لهم رؤية الفجر بعد هذا الليل الطويل
مذكرات انسانية وموضوعية بعيدة عن التحيز والانفعال- كتبها زفايج بأسلوبه الهادئ الذي يتميز بدقة الملاحظة وفهم النفس البشرية - تعيش فيها معه كل ما مر به من أحوال وأحداث وتجارب
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,474 followers
October 31, 2014
"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 comfortable and optimistic time in Europe, the continent was sleepwalking.

The book manages to drive home the fact that we have come a long way in the last century; there have been so many drastic changes.

"I feel that the world in which I grew up and the world of today, not to mention the world in between them, are drawing further and further apart and becoming entirely different places."

I love history and I've studied a lot about WW1 and WW2 history. What is often missing in the texts I read are the feelings and thoughts of the general population at the time. In this book we learn more about those feelings, the feelings of the Austrian people, in particular those of Zweig who I believe was one of the unique stories: a man who became famous in such an unusual time period. I was in awe of Zweig's writing from start to finish and believe he was the perfect person to present the psyche of the fin de siècle. At the same time it was unfortunate that he had lived in that period because the stresses and changes that took place in that time period led to his relatively early death. So many what ifs came to mind...

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,303 followers
April 29, 2023
În noaptea de 22 spre 23 februarie 1942, Stefan Zweig și a doua lui soție, Charlotte Elisabeth Altmann, se sinucid în casa cumpărată de scriitor în Petrópolis, o așezare situată nu departe de Rio de Janeiro, Brazilia. Cu o zi înainte, prozatorul expediase către un editor din Suedia manuscrisul cărții Lumea de ieri.

Stefan Zweig (1881 - 1942) lucrase la această carte cîte 12 ore pe zi (într-un ritm de 70 de pagini pe săptămînă), mai întîi în vila din Ramapo Road, Ossining, SUA, și apoi în Petrópolis. Nu avea nici un document sau însemnare care să-l ajute, s-a bizuit pe memorie. A rezultat o narațiune precisă, evenimentele evocate se desemnează limpede și, atîta cît am verificat, nu se îndepărtează nici cu o iotă de adevăr.

Sigur, ca toți cronicarii trecutului, Stefan Zweig vede în istorie un lung declin de la o vîrstă de aur la una de fier. Nimic nu se compară cu statornicia, calmul și siguranța din Viena copilăriei sale. Din relatarea lui, ne dăm seama de ce perioada dintre 1871 și 1913 s-a numit (mult mai tîrziu, firește) „La belle époque”.

A fost o epocă puritană, cu reguli absurde, cu profesori pedanți și cu o igienă foarte precară. Moda era imposibilă, de o cruzime cu adevărat sadică. O domniță de măritat trebuia sufocată sub veșminte:

„Orice femeie din Europa își lăsa părul să-i crească pînă la șolduri: părul trebuia să fie ondulat, așezat, periat, netezit, strîns cu o mulţime de ace de păr, agrafe și piepteni, plus fierul de ondulat și bigudiurile. Și toate acestea trebuiau făcute înainte de a o înfășura și înveșmînta ca în niște foi de ceapă cu jupoane, camizole, jachete și jacheţele pînă cînd se acoperea și ultimul rest de formă feminină. Dar această absurditate își avea sensul său ascuns. Prin aceste intervenţii, silueta unei femei se ascundea atît de bine, încît nici mirele, la masa nunţii, nu putea să-și dea seama nici pe departe dacă viitoarea lui tovarășă de viaţă este dreaptă sau strîmbă, plinuţă sau slabă, dacă are picioarele scurte, strîmbe sau lungi” (p.85).

După ce-și trece doctoratul la Universitatea din Berlin, Zweig se pune pe scris și devine, spre invidia lui Thomas Mann, cel mai tradus autor din epocă. Îi cunoaște pe Verhaeren, Valéry, Rilke, Joyce, Freud. Militează fără succes pentru o uniune a intelectualilor europeni, care să nu țină seama de granițe și ideologii. Primul război mondial îl constrînge la exil. Petrece cîțiva ani în Elveția. Revine la Salzburg și observă tot mai îngrijorat ascensiunea nazismului. Oamenii își pierd mințile. Pleacă din nou în exil. Mai întîi la Londra, apoi peste ocean. Treptat este cuprins de disperare. Nu mai vede nici o soluție. Întunericul s-a lăsat peste tot. Notează obosit:

„Nu mai sînt acasă nicăieri, sînt peste tot un străin... Rătăcesc încă o dată din ţară-n ţară, peste mări și oceane, fără patrie, prigonit și hăituit ca un proscris” (p.381). „Mă simt inutil și singur” (p.466).

Lumea de ieri rămîne o mărturie onestă despre prăbușirea Europei în barbarie și absurd. (luni, 11.07.22).
Profile Image for Helle.
376 reviews372 followers
April 28, 2017
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 confines of nationality alone.

This rather bloodless introduction does not even begin to describe my experience of reading this sweeping, touching memoir of a life lived in what was probably the most tumultuous period in European history. Stefan Zweig has the true soul and sensibility of an artist, and it is with keen observation, nostalgia and regret that he paints, first, the bygone days of one of Europe’s most overlooked culture capitals, Vienna, and, then, how geopolitical excuses and the human quest for power over others marked the end of peace in Europe and the beginning of a new era.

Alongside a very insightful and personal account of the two world wars, their causes and their repercussions, Zweig tells the story of how he became an author: how at school he was part of a group of youngsters who all adored poetry and the arts, how he began writing poetry and was published at a young age and how he humbly decided to dedicate himself to travel and to the translation of other authors’ works of literature in order to add more substance to his own literary endeavours. Zweig would become one of the most read and translated authors of his age, but like much else in the wake of Hitler’s slaughter of Europe, that, too, came to a (temporary) end.

Throughout the book Zweig demonstrates a touching reverence for other masters of literature, e.g. Goethe and Rilke, but also for composers, e.g. Beethoven, and, towards the end, Freud, whom he visited in both Vienna and London and considered a good friend. (I, too, visited Freud’s apartment in Vienna over Easter and saw a portrait of Zweig there in one of the rooms). He took great pleasure in many of the friendships he developed throughout his life with clever, thinking people all across Europe, but in the end he had to flee Austria and his beloved Europe because he was a Jew.

He never discloses the most private aspects of his life, e.g. details surrounding his two marriages, because that is not his errand here. It is a story about Europe and a about a world long gone, as seen through the eyes of one of its biggest fans. At one point he describes himself as a man with ‘a near pathological lack of self-confidence’, which I found both remarkable and likeable in a renowned and gifted writer when only last week I heard a not-so-gifted but young (and thus perhaps forgivable) wanna-be poet admit to being a narcissist, a word that these days gives me the creeps (and I told him as much). I wonder what Stefan Zweig would have made of the world of today.

I not only admired this book but grew increasingly fond of Stefan Zweig as I neared the end, which had me in tears, I must admit. The book goes straight to my ‘favourites’ shelf. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

(This was a timely read for me, as I discovered upon returning from Vienna that a new movie is out about Stefan Zweig called ‘Farewell to Europe’. A tragic aside: Stefan Zweig and his wife committed suicide only days after the manuscript for this book was sent to his publishers).
October 4, 2021
Leído en el club de lectura de la pecera.

Empecé esta lectura partiendo de la base del título "El mundo de ayer. Memorias de un europeo". Como tal entendí que eran las memorias de Stefan Zweig, su biografía y no. Estas memorias, que no biografía, son eso, un retrato de la Europa de finales del S. XIX hasta casi la mitad del S. XX desde el punto de vista de un joven judío, intelectual y de clase social alta, como bien dice el título "El mundo de ayer. Memorias de un europeo" que bien podía haber sido cualquier otro.

Zweig nos hace un repaso histórico desde la caída del Imperio Austrohúgaro, la Primera Guerra Mundial, el periodo de entreguerras, el ascenso del nacismo y el inicio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, con la extraordinaria prosa y reflexiones de Zweig, desde su punto de vista, lo que el vivió, sin olvidar nunca y enfocándolo siempre, desde el escenario intelectual.
No hay página que pases que no subrayes una frase, incluso algunas de sus observaciones, desde mi humilde punto de vista, han vuelto a resurgir.
Matricula de Honor como memorias.

Como biografía apenas hay datos, me ha faltado saber más de su vida privada, entiendo que no era su propósito hacerlo ya que desde el prólogo advierte que no es su intención ser el protagonista de ese libro, pero no sabemos que fue de su familia mientras el estaba de viaje o cuando volvía, de sus matrimonios, de sus sentimientos. Se me ha quedado cortísima.
Si este libro lo valorara como biografía suspendería.

Mi valoración es subjetiva, basada en mis gustos personales y libre, por tanto le doy 4.5 estrellas.
Si buscas una biografía de Zweig este no es tu libro, si quieres conocer más de Europa de la mano de este narrador único, te lo remiendo encarecidamente.
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,914 followers
July 3, 2019
...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 on its own.

There are many wonderful reviews about this book therefore I have nothing new to say. I will simply share some rambling thoughts.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) has written a book where the universal sense of loss is omnipresent. What to do when the world you have always known crumbles in front of your eyes because of the atrocious acts of other human beings? I cannot imagine facing such cruelty. And then I can due to the vividness of Zweig's prose. I was the one remembering the past, enraptured by the feeling of a distant sense of safety. A stateless individual on some strange ground, holding a pack of memories that contrasted so harshly with his present. I have read, I have lived through his words and I have learned.

I've read other works by Zweig beforeand his magnificent writing is obviously present in this book which is considered - and rightly so - a real masterpiece. His prose, evocative, sharp and clear as usual, deals with many issues of society at the start of the 20th century; some ordinary, some controversial. It also describes his relationship with other relevant figures of his time. There is plenty of the external world and his perspectives.
Through his words, the author gave form to the world he has seen and lived before. Avoiding a detailed recount of his own life, this book portrays the sense of security of those lost days. He gave his memories enough time to speak for him before he succumbed to a death caused by total despair and sealed by his bare hands. The defeated dream of humanity as a whole. A dream stolen by two wars that surpass every attempt of reasoning.

Reading this book was a strange experience. I've lost a lot while I was reading it and have gained much after finishing it. We are always returning to where we started, aren't we? Always moving from beginning to middle and vice versa. Our seeming incapacity to learn from our mistakes intoxicates our essence. Most of us are left with a bittersweet confidence in human nature. A naive optimism fighting for survival. For I am writing these lines and, in another part of the world, people have fifteen seconds to save their lives from the atrocity of others. Those who can feed or restore our faith in humanity can guarantee anything in a place that will never be safe.

There are those who breathe nostalgia every day and those who don't forget about the air of the present. An existence perpetually longing for what has passed cannot see what is coming.
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.

July 30, 14/Update July 3, 19
* Also on my blog.
-Painting: Stefan Zweig, oil on canvas / via flickr
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
August 16, 2015

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 certainly more detail in the final chapters, since the rise to power of Nazism was the inescapable political circumstances that turned everybody’s lives upside down (even for the lucky ones whose lives were not terminated), but there are also some chapters which remain very general. On the whole his picture of the world from yesterday is the evocation of a dazzling Zeitgeist that has dimmed and then blown away.

As I have read in parallel about six of his novellas, I also recognize a narrating structure that he used several times in his fiction: the story within the story, or the framed narration. The emphasis is then in the other story, the contained one, not the one of the Ich-narrator. These are memoirs of the missing subject. For although we learn about the two different families from which his parents originated, his school, his early writings, his meetings with the editor, that he traveled widely, that his books sold well, the purchase of his house in Salzburg, his collecting, his concern over his elderly mother living in Vienna as the shadow of Hitler looms, etc, many elements of his life still remain untold. For example he mentions his wife a couple of times, in passing, without naming her, but he does not even tells us that he married twice. And his sentiment is kept to a minimum, in spite of the overall feeling of a nostalgia without anguish.

Those scant personal aspects become then a necessary framework through which he displays his beloved foregone world. But the lighting is clearly turned away from himself-- onto the stage.

The account reads then like a Gallery of Portraits. These personalities parade in front of us as the actors who created that very rich, stimulating, civilized, cultured, imaginative, enriching, sophisticated and doomed world. These people he met. His early success in the literary world and his cosmopolitan mindset meant that he met very many exceptional personalities. And his accounts of people like Rilke, Hofmannsthal, Verhaeren, Romain Rolland, James Joyce, Shaw, Rathenau, Gorki, Freud, Wells, etc, are engrossing profiles of an unforgettable freshness, and become his gift to us. But as the missing portraitist, he has left the Gallery and left the door open.

These self-effacing memoirs contrast with some aspects of his fiction. I have admired Zweig’s ability to penetrate into the deepest corners of human passion, of human feelings, and this led me to qualify him as our “literary” cardiologist, or even as our “literary” heart surgeon. But in these memoirs, he certainly does not put his heart on display.

But then, he couldn’t. When he bequeathed to us his testimony of the world he had witnessed, he had already decided that he wanted his heart to stop beating. But he kept his deep despair veiled.

Profile Image for Garima.
113 reviews1,775 followers
August 6, 2014
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 past settles down, whatever little remains in the form of nostalgia or hopeless realization emanates nothing but little consolation. In ‘The World of Yesterday’, Stefan Zweig laments about one such time when the world of his dreams transmuted into that of his nightmares and surfaced in front of his eyes like a menacing shadow which left him melancholic at the fateful loss of a paradise.
But we, who once knew a world of individual freedom, know and can give testimony that Europe once, without a care, enjoyed its kaleidoscopic play of color. And we shudder when we think how overcast, overshadowed, enslaved and enchained our world has become because of its suicidal fury.
Once upon a time that world was beautiful. Zweig was born and brought up in luxury, both of material and intellectual wealth. Art was a way of life which didn’t limit itself within the realms of mere hobby or passion but was also a source of recreation. Although this culture of Europe had its flaws, it was also a home to a young generation which was restless for exciting discoveries and inevitable changes. If the masters of history were highly revered, the talent of present was duly encouraged too. This was a time of known unknown talents in various fields going by the names of Rilke, Freud, Rodin, Peter Hille, Emile Verhaeren, Richard Strauss, Bertha von Suttner and this was also the century where people like Hitler emerged as a demonic power. Yes, it was an indulging era which gave its citizens a sort of utopian freedom that proved to be a boon and later an irrepressible curse.

If we, driven and hunted in these times which are inimical to every art and every collection, were put to it to learn a new art, it would be that of parting from all that once had been our pride and our love.

Zweig has given us a self-effacing and profound account of a period where he was lucky to explore the alleys of great literary avenues and himself became a virtuoso of dazzling words. Though one can gauge the prudence in his writing, his enthusiasm on meeting his heroes, whether personally or through original manuscripts was contagious and one can easily feel his pain when he had to leave those very alleys which were sucked into the unbridgeable gaps created by two world wars. This memoir is an attempt to verbalize the vulnerability of happiness, success and innocence. It’s a portrayal of those people whose understanding of a hollow worldliness came through hardships and betrayal. It’s a story of the unfortunates who renounced their lives not because of death but deathlike experiences in which their each breath became accountable to an unworthy despot. It’s a cautionary case presented by a beloved writer with a hope that his thoughts will reach us in some form when time again strikes doom.

My life was already unconsciously accommodating itself to the temporary rather than to the permanent.

Sometimes heart and home can never be together. Zweig never returned home.

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews53 followers
November 3, 2020
The experience was profoundly affecting.....
I’ll return with some thoughts - will include passages that resonate with me...
But I just finished it...
I’m going to close my eyes ... snuggle longer under these covers.

I’m back....with my review....THIS DEEPLY MOVING NON-FICTION book....which reads like fiction. ( but sadly ...it’s all true)....

As I sit here this morning with anticipation on this pivotal day - Election Day - November 3rd, 2020....with other Americans and friends around the world...
I realize I will forever associate reading “The World of Yesterday”, this historic autography, with significant memorable appreciation.
It was remarkably eerie with the relevances of our current events today.

This is only the second book I’ve read by Stefan Zweig - so far - I’m still hungry to read more of his work. He was a fascinating and brilliant man.

Stefan Zweig, ( 1881-1942), born in Austria, was a famous biographer, novelist, dramatist, and journalist, who spent his formative years living in Old Vienna. He earned a doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Vienna.
He was second born - had an older brother. Their family was wealthy. His father a shrewd businessman.
Zweig followed in his parents footsteps regarding religion: Jewish, but not observant.....yet Zweig was profoundly sensitive to the dire perplexities of the German and Austrian Jews during the rise of Nazism.

In the opening chapters ....it was easy to marvel at the joys of grandeur in Vienna. The years before WWI...were less political, instead, more culturally driven ....with poets, novelists, musicians, sculptors, painters, and mental health professionals, delighting in intellectual conversations about the arts. Sitting in cafes, was relaxing. They read newspapers- played cards, and sat in coffeehouses for hours.
I learned about many people I didn’t know. Famous colorful textured people that Zweig was friends with - and collaborated with some of them. I took time reading about each of the following on google.
Some of these people mentioned in “The World of Yesterday” ....gave me a warm ( almost envious), feelings for the joys of cerebral richness connecting.
Stefan ‘did’ experience rich fulfillment in his life - with many bright minds that were a perfect fit for Zweig’s own brilliant mind.

Some of Zweig’s friends were:
Rainer Maria Rilke, August Rodin, Sigmund Freud, Theodore Herzl, Jean Jaures, Hoffmanstahl, Paul Verlaine, Emile Verhaeren, Rathenau, James Joyce, Hermann Hesse, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Salvador Dali, Joseph Roth, Charles Dickens, Honore de Balzac,
Romain Rolland, Friderike von Winternitz,
Bruno Walter, Arturo Toscanini, Richard Strauss...
These next three people ....intrigued me...reading more about their lives - thanks to the help on google.
....Hugo von Hofmannsthal: an Australian novelist, poet, dramatist, narrator, essayist.
.... Arthur Rimbaud: French poet, known for his simplistic prose poems and for his stormy relationship with..
....Paul Verlaine: another French poet - who fired two shots at Rimbaud (injuring his wrist), and Verlaine was arrested and imprisoned. Later Verlaine underwent a re-conversion to Roman Catholicism—which again influenced his work and provoked Rimbaud’s sharp criticism.
SO MUCH DRAMA IN THE LITERATURE WORLD... 🤨✍️...(luxury challenges)....

Life was good ....until it wasn’t
“Making music, dancing, the theater, conversation, proper in urban deportment, seas were cultivated here as particular arts. It was not the military, nor the political, nor the commercial, that was predominate in the life of the individual and the masses”.

Zweig gave readers a direct experience of the contrast between the beautiful years in Vienna...and the devastation years....(especially to the Jewish community with so much anti-Semitism).
Society changed so dramatically and quickly.
It felt similar to what many of us have felt in 2020...with the ways the covid-19 pandemic, and the horrors of present day racism, hit us like a brick wall before most of us saw what was coming.
Stefan Zweig ‘did’ see the heavy impact of the world wars before many did. He saw, and felt life’s deterioration during one of the most progressive periods of European history.
His exceptional- intimate - storytelling gave us comprehensive cognizance into how life was in Europe before WWI, between the wars, and the beginning of WWII.

“Before the war I knew the highest degree and form of individual freedom, and later its lowest level in hundreds of years; I have been celebrated and despised, free and unfree, rich and poor. All the livid
steeds of the Apocalypse have stormed through my life—revolution and famine, and terror, epidemics, and emigration”.
“I have seen the great mass ideologies grow and spread before my eyes—Fascism in Italy, National Socialism in Germany, Bolshevism in Russia, and above all else arch-plague nationalism which has poisoned the flower of European culture”.

“I saw the catastrophe coming, inevitability: on hundreds of mornings during those years, when everybody else reached for the newspapers confidently, I was gripped by an inner fear of the headline: ’Finis Austrice’. Oh, how had I deceived myself when I had pretended to myself that I had long since prided myself loose from her fate! From afar I suffered her long and feverish agony daily, infinitely more than my friends in the country itself, for they deceived themselves with patriotic demonstrations and reassured each other with ‘France and England cannot let us down. And above all, Mussolini Will never stand for it’. They believed in the League of Nations and in the peace treaties as sick people do in neatly labeled medicines. They lived on carefree and happy while I,seeing more plainly, worried my heart out”.

"To give witness to this tense, dramatic life of ours, filled with the unexpected, seems to me a duty; for, I repeat, everyone was a witness of this gigantic transformation, everyone was forced to be a witness".

The history- politics - war - ( pointless war) - anti-Semitism - ( pointless as well), fleeing one country to the next: Austria, Paris, the UK, US, Brazil ( the country that disappointed his expectations and where he and his wife committed suicide)....
is one heck of an unforgettable phenomenal book....

Stefan Zweig’s sentences had a life of their own, at the same time his writing felt so completely natural. There was an ease about his writing
and his words pierced my heart.
His humanity and kind sweet soul was subtly beautiful.

Of course the ending is sad.....
That said... I still want to read more of his work.

I’ll end with this quote I read in the ‘New Republic’:
“The very success with which this book evokes both the beauty of the past and the fatality of its passing is what gives it tragic effectiveness.
It is not so much a memoir of a life as it is the memento of an age, and the author seems, in his own phrase, to be the narrator at an illustrated lecture. The illustrations are provided by time, but his choice is brilliant and the narration is evocative”.

5 stars....
....and wishing everyone a peaceful next few days - while we watch and witness history unfold in front of our eyes.
Prayers for healing of this country.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
464 reviews593 followers
February 6, 2017
"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 particular interest in the form, allowing me to fall in love with genre and stylistic profundity. Structurally, I now compare every novella to his.

Each page of this memoir made me more and more appreciative of Zweig's works as I learned how much he adhered to language, to words that were structurally arranged into literary portraits on the page; at times he even abhorred his first poetic pieces because he thought he should have given himself more time to efficiently grasp the terms of literary art. Most importantly, each chapter of his memoir made me appreciate a time and era when books were prominent and intellectual discussion was paramount. As a child, I grew up in my own makeshift literary world and as an adult, I wanted to disappear into the literary Vienna that Zweig describes, once an "international metropolis for two thousand years" that he says was "demoted to the status of a provincial German town."

(A coffeehouse in Vienna).

"Anyone who lived in Vienna absorbed a sense of rhythm as if it were in the air. And just as that musicality expressed itself in writers in the particular attention we paid to writing particularly well-turned prose, in others the sense of delicacy was expressed in social attitudes and daily life."

There are many enlightening moments stemming from his account of numerous artists, like his giving us a peek at James Joyce as a young artist in the middle of his masterpiece, or his allowing me as a reader to feel oneness with the poet Rilke in the way he describes him in his daily element, and even those times when one feels close enough to cherish Zweig's friendship and literary brotherhood with Romain Rolland. Just as Hemingway's A Moveable Feast and Achebe's There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra are autobiographical stamps of time, place and indelible literary periods, so is this compelling historical account by Zweig. It's impossible to read this and not be captivated by the world he describes. In this book, his Vienna lives and allures, despite its enemies intentions.

The Strudlhofstiege, a literary landmark in Vienna

Imagine a person's art taken away from him at the height of his literary career. Imagine a famous author whose debut novels sold twenty thousand copies in only a few days, having to witness his books banned and burned. Imagine what happens when an artist sees his numerous works "consigned to the poison cupboard of public libraries;" imagine what happens when his readers and friends wouldn't dare put his "reprehensible name on an envelope." Zweig worked on this autobiography in 1940; soon after, he committed suicide, fearful of what could happen next, to him, a Jewish writer in Hitler's world.

"Success did not arrive suddenly, storming into my house; it came slowly and discreetly, but it proved a faithful friend, and stayed with me until Hitler drove it away with the lash of his decrees."

As a reader, one must pause and gather perspective before attempting a review of this important nonfictional work. This is not a book you read for enjoyment, but for enlightenment and understanding of the world then, the world now. Stefan Zweig's world may have been yesterday, but it lives on in the words he's left us, in the current events of the world today, and in the literary safeguards he's put into place.
Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
December 20, 2017
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 and 1930s to be one of the most famous writers in the world. He was well acquainted with, and close friends of, many of the eminent writers and artists of Europe.

Zweig's writing is superb, and his reminiscences are profound, and profoundly moving. For example, on pages 139-146 of the edition pictured here Zweig writes movingly of his friendship with the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in Paris. And in the penultimate chapter, "Incipit Hitler", his description of Hitler's rise conveys in thirty pages more insight and illumination than I have seen in major histories of the time.

This was the last of many books that Zweig wrote, being published shortly before he and his second wife committed suicide in Brazil in 1942. It is ostensibly his autobiography, but it is really more the story of an age than the story of a man. Zweig originally intended to call the book Three Lives, referring to the three time periods that had comprised his life: the Vienna that he grew up and matured in; the Great War, and the inter-war period, during which he dealt with the loss of the dreams of human progress that he had had as a young man before the War; and finally the advent of Hitler and the outbreak of the second World War.

Zweig says of the European mood in the early years of the century " ... I pity those that were not young during those last years of confidence in Europe ... each one of us derived strength from the common upswing of the time and increased his individual confidence out of the collective confidence ... whoever experienced that epoch ... knows that all since has been retrogression and gloom." That was written of course near the end of his life. Nevertheless, the inter war period was when Zweig's career bloomed. Those such as Zweig who had survived the war (and those too young to have found it an annihilator of dreams) found that European art and culture in the 1920s, having lost the pre-war air of optimistic progress, was nevertheless vibrant with new, more sobering, ideas.

Zweig always viewed himself, not as an Austrian Jew, but as a European. (The subtitle of the book in the original German was Memoirs of a European.) When the lights began going out all over Europe for a second time in the mid 1930s, Zweig essentially became stateless, moving to England, then to America, and finally to his last destination in South America.

I can't say enough about this book. I first read it decades ago, eventually lost the book, then found a few years ago that it was still (or perhaps once again) in print, and read it a second time. If you have any interest in the history of European culture of a hundred years ago, read it! You won't be sorry, though you might be a bit affected by the sense of profound loss that Zweig himself felt so keenly.
Profile Image for ميقات الراجحي.
Author 6 books1,982 followers
January 1, 2018
هذه المذكرات هي خلاصة تجربة الأديب ستيفان زفايج والذي كان معنيًا بتدوين يومياته - مذكراته وكان يشجع أصدقائه على فعل المثل ليس بغية النشر بقدر الفائدة الشخصية منها عند القراءة أو ليقرأ أبنائهم ماجاء فيها على الأقل؛ إيمانًا منه بأن "كل حياة تتضمن تجارب نفسية واجتماعية جديرة بالتدوين" وعلى المستوى الشخصي أظن أن مذكرات زفايج لم يكن يخطط لنشرها في حياته حتي لو فكر في نشر جزء منها يمثل مرحلته العمرية في أوروبا قبل خروجه للبرازيل وذلك لعزوف الرجل عن الشهرة. علي الأقل لم يكن ينوي طبع هذا المذكرات في حياته لكن أعتقد جهّزها للنشر لمعاهدته لها بالتنقيح في نيويورك خلال إقامته فيها في (1941م).

موجعة هذه المذكرات بها الكثير من الحزن والمرارة والفاجعة على أحادث أليمة مرت بأوروبا في التاريخ الحديث عانى منها ليس فقط ستيفان بل "مصير قلما أثقل جيلًا آخر في سياق التاريخ" وكما يقول "هو قدر جيل كامل". كان غاضبًا، وغضب وتكدرت حالته النفسية بسبب معاصرته لسقوط العالم بسبب الفاشية والنازية خصوصًا وأثر الحرب العالمية الأولى ثم الثانية التي شهد عدة سنوات فشعر بالسلم يغيب أمام ناظريه فأٍدم علي الإنتحار هو وزوجه وحتى كلبه لم ينساه وكل ذلك تعبيرًآ عن رفضًا عن حالة العالم وصراعاته في الحروب.

يتناول ستيفان حياته منذ ما أعتبره العصر الذهبي لحياته هو حيث أعوام التي عاشها قبل إندلاع الحروب خصوصا الحرب العالمية الأولى (1914) ثم سرعان ما يتحدث عن حياته فترة الحرب وكيف حتي أن يهوديته أثرت عليه بسبب موقف النازية من اليهود، وبسبب موقفه هو من النازية التي لم تتركه في شأنه وأتلفت كتبه وكل حياته وبقي خاليًآ من كل شيء إلا ذكرياته التي يسطرها هنا بمرارة. لن تجد في الكتاب الكثير عن أدبه وحياته الأدبية بل جل ماهو موجود عن هذه الفترة الحرجة عن أوروبا. هذه سيرة رجل رغم إمتلاكه للمعرفه ومعرفته بالناس جيدًا هاهو يؤرخ للإنسانية بحزن وكأنه أمام ��نسان جديد إنه إنسان الحرب والدم والقتل والتهجير الذي عرفه العالم خلال الحربين العالميتين وإن كان تأريخه لتحولات نهاية القرن التاسع عشر وحديثه عن إرهاصات الحرب العالمية الثانية – لإنتحاره في منتصفها – أعظم ما يضمه الكتاب. كمية الإنسانية التي تفوح من ستيفان مخجلة لأي إنسانية أخرى وإن كان أغضبني إزهاقه لروحه رغم عذره.

من أعظم حزن هذا الرجل فقده لأعز ما يملك بعد كرامته وهو إرثه الفكري ومخطوطاته التاريخية والأدبية بفعل الحرب ولعل هذا مبلغه عظيمه في نفسه.

تعجبني كتابات ستيفان / شتيفان خصوصًآ تشريحه للشخصيات بحيادية منهجية. من الكتب المعرفية الجميلة المسلية ولا تمنحك ثقافة بل عادة ما ترشدك لكتب أخرى لتتوسع في بعض المواضيع المطروحة في الكتاب وربما هذا من حسنات هذا النوع من الكتب المعرفية / السيرة - المذكرات.

قراءات 2013
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
996 reviews1,135 followers
March 16, 2019
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 to resist the appeal of the illusion that there was a time when things were simple, more civilized and more – for lack of a better word – tasteful. Some might argue that makes me the ideal audience for the Zweig “revival”.

Call me a hipster, but I got interested in Zweig’s work because of the Wes Anderson movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, especially after reading that Anderson created the character of M. Gustave to represent Zweig himself: someone deeply attached to a set of values and code of conduct that might feel old-fashioned, but that certainly represented a more elegant and liberal civilization than the one they were forced to live in. A man with very high standards and a kind heart. I just had to know more about a man like that, especially after reading “Chess” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...). This book being a blend of memoirs and recounting of how the Austro-Hungarian empire went from a sophisticated realm with a refined culture to being the Third Reich’s backyard, I knew it would be interesting and also heartbreaking. Having had to flee his homeland, and eventually Europe altogether, I also knew that Zweig would be looking back at his old life with rose-coloured glasses. I can’t say I blame him.

The first thing that struck me as I made my way through this memoir was the absolute beauty of the prose. I know it’s a translation, but wow! This is the kind of book that reads like soft, chewy candy to me: I want it to go on forever and I’m kind of bummed when it’s all gone. Zweig’s love for Vienna shines through the writing vividly. He was brought up in a city and a family that valued culture tremendously, and made intellectualism a holy value, more important than money and politics, and his character is very much a reflection of the time and place of his birth and early life. It made me wish I had lived there and then, in that incredible place where people sought enlightenment in books and art.

Zweig was a realist, who saw the quirks and contradictions of human behavior with a compassionate eye, and until the Great War, was more often amused at people’s less admirable sides that appalled or weary of them. The way he talks about Vienna, Berlin and Paris, and the advent of a more modern way of living and a greater equality between sexes and classes, has the exuberant enthusiasm of someone who witnesses spring for the first time. Everything was fresh and bright in his eyes, and his love for the time and places is infectious. He was also fiercely admiring of the artists, writers and actors he met and befriended: it could sound like shameless name-dropping to talk about one’s friendships with Rilke, Freud and other turn-of-the-century luminaries, but Zweig is too earnest in his admiration of the great minds he frequented to ever sound like he’s bragging to have known them: he just wants everyone to love them as much as he did.

When he switches gears and turns his narrative to the Great War, and the way it broke Europe’s (and his generation’s) innocence, I suddenly had a pit in my stomach. Lines such as “Our common idealism, the optimism that had come from progress, meant that we failed to see and speak out strongly enough against our common danger” felt too close to home for me, too close to the way I have felt at the back of my head for the past couple of years.

I was brought close to tears more than once by the way he describes the devastation war left in its wake through Austria, when he mentions the letter someone secretly slipped in his pocket when he visited post-Revolutionary Russia – to tell him not to believe everything he heard – and of course, when he suddenly finds himself forced to leave his beloved country behind when Hitler’s regime makes being a Jewish writer in Austria extremely dangerous.

It’s hard to read a book like that, a book that paints such a vivid picture of all the good and beautiful things that greed, intolerance, hate, and ignorance can ruin, especially when all we seem to hear about on the news is the resurgence of greed, intolerance, hatred and ignorance. It’s frightening to think of the historical parallels, to imagine what could happen (again!) if things go south… As much as I loved this book, I would lie if I said it didn’t also break my heart. I feel like I found a long-lost friend in Zweig, and then all I could do was listen to him tell me about all the things he lost. He deeply believed in what one could call the brotherhood of people, and that arbitrary divisions would cause nothing but pain on either side: seeing his ideals blown apart was too much for him.

As I have learned watching “Mad Men” obsessively, the word nostalgia means “the pain from an old wound”. Never has this definition felt more appropriate than reading “The World of Yesterday”. A beautiful, bittersweet and still very relevant book.


I was talking with a colleague last week who told me Zweig is his favorite writer: I am often tempted to judge people by the books they read (and the music they listen to, because I’m basically a “High Fidelity” character), and based on that, I think well of this guy: if your favorite writer is a humanist who believed in the importance of art and peace, you can’t be a bad person in my eyes.
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
800 reviews853 followers
February 27, 2014
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 self-effacing charm, his belief in the primacy of art as protection for humanity. For a memoir covering his days of early education to 1939, a few years before his suicide in Brazil, he so rarely talks about himself or his family -- there's a mention of trying to apply for a license to marry his second wife in England right as England declares war on Germany, but no mention of a first wife. No mention of kids. Hardly a mention of his parents, other than a bit at the beginning and a bit at the end about his mother. This isn't a personal memoir at all, really, but a cultural/artistic one. Zero gossip, even if he namedrops Rilke, Rodin, Gide, Joyce, Freud, Richard Strauss, Romain Rolland (who he considers the best of the best and who now seems wildly underread). Zweig's a little like a Zelig character, except Zweig at the time is as famous as those he's with. The portraits of Rodin (great artists are always the kindest, he says -- he also shows Rodin go into such an OCD trance while working on a sculpture that he forgets young Zweig is even in the room) and the stiff, bitter polylinguist James Joyce during WWI in Zurich as he's working on Ulysses are worth the price of admission. But more so it's the gravitas, the horrorshow, the heft, the drastic real-life poignancy of the loss of old European security. Forever everyone has remarked -- most recently, the poet known by the nickname Biggie -- that things done changed, but the change experienced by Zweig, Vienna, and Europe in general from the 1890s to 1939 is drastic. Zweig's storytelling skills make it all seem like a consistent forward flow into the abyss -- the days of security and complacency and the primacy of art, lit, music, and theater, give way to enthusiasm for the first World War (a completely unnecessary consequence of international saber-rattling/posturing) to post-war horrors, poverty, runaway inflation, to a period of experimentation and youthful reflowering coinciding with a rage for order that leads to protofascist glimmerings, brownshirts, the rise of the secretly well-funded National Socialists, political deceit, and crimes against humanity. The Nazis are the antithesis of Zweig's apolitical pan-European humanism. He's able to write a letter to his number one fan in Italy (Mussolini) to get someone's sentence lightened, but he can't change history once it's goosestepping toward Hades. He retreats, goes into exile, and writes biographies subtly critiquing the contemporary political situation. He works with Strauss who works with the Nazis -- and Hitler himself even lets an opera with a libretto written by the Jew Zweig be performed. (It rarely comes up, but Zweig is a totally assimilated Viennese Jew.) He didn't collaborate with the Nazis so much as try to preserve the primacy of art when faced with deathheads. It's the sort of book that makes you aware of the sweep of history we've lived through -- the comparatively quiet yet totally disruptive technological revolution of the past 17 years or so, the artistic and cultural plate tectonics that slowly but surely rearrange the continents over time. I read this purposefully before reading The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig and I'm glad I did. I look forward to seeing echoes of everything covered in this memoir in his fiction, and I'll also probably get to a biography about him to learn a bit about his personal life. Zweig doesn't have the reputation of Mann and Musil or Proust or those early 20th century uberdogs, and that's most likely because he's a centrist who's so very balanced aesthetically and intellectually. Also, unlike Mann and Musil, his books were suppressed and/or burned and therefore unread in Germany for a while there. His writing and thinking are so accessible and he sold millions of copies as a result but he never dumbs things down. The few pages where he talks about his writing process were illuminating: he apparently wrote 800 pages and whittled them to the 200 necessary pages, always interested in pace, since he identified himself as a restless reader. Anyway, I'll try to fill this out with some quotations and other thoughts later.
Profile Image for Ulysse.
279 reviews111 followers
May 4, 2023
Zweig’s story as told in these memoirs is so painful, beautiful and tragic I am left speechless. That he and his wife Lotte committed suicide the day after submitting the completed manuscript makes the experience of reading this even more devastating. Writing a review almost feels like a desecration. So I’ll just leave my tears between the pages of this magnificent book and be grateful that it was written--in spite of the deep despair that underlies it, a despair that would eventually end the author’s life.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,181 followers
July 6, 2017
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 the Indian Summer of the interwar years, to the terrible hardships that led to the second great conflagration.

The last two autobiographies I read were of Benvenuto Cellini (whose beautiful salt-cellar is on display at the Vienna Art History Museum) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, two very different men alike in their narcissism. Whatever faults Zweig may have had, he was not a narcissist. This is the least personal of autobiographies, almost never mentioning Zweig’s so-called “personal life”—his marriages, private disappointments, and intimate friendships. Instead Zweig focuses his gaze outward, at the world around him, the cultural milieu, the slowly shifting tides of history.

By being so self-effacing, Zweig succeeds in producing a surprisingly insightful look at his world. A delicate, sensitive, and intelligent man, Zweig was extremely well-read, and knew virtually everybody—every famous European, at least—and so was in a uniquely advantageous position to write the history of his times. To give you some idea of his social circle, Zweig knew Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dal�� (he even facilitated a meeting between the two when Freud was in London), he met Auguste Rodin, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and was friends with Richard Strauss, Benedetto Croce, Rainer Marie Rilke, Romain Rolland, and Maxim Gorky, just to name the names that come to mind.

Zweig’s history is largely one of tragic loss, as he repeats again and again. He begins his life in an affluent home, the son of a successful industrialist, in a period of calm stability and cultural efflorescence in Europe. He hones his writing skill, quickly gains success, meets several famous contemporaries, travels and sees the world, and then witnesses the body of European civilization tear itself apart for the flimsiest and most fatuous of reasons during the First World War. The war eventually comes to its bloody end, Austria and then Germany suffer terribly, Zweig meanwhile becomes one of the world’s most famous and most translated authors (although the English never liked him), and then Hitler’s rise begins, forcing Zweig to flee. The book ends just as the Second World War is commencing.

Despite the tragedy that Zweig lived through (and committed suicide during), it is impossible for me not to have life-envy. Here was have a man born into wealth, who had the time and resources to dedicate his whole self to his art, who could travel wherever he pleased whenever he pleased, who achieved instantaneous success seemingly without effort, who was able to meet and befriend all of his contemporary heroes, and who was even wealthy enough to collect manuscripts of his deceased idols—in short, it would be hard to imagine circumstances more favorable to the creation of a writer than those Zweig enjoyed. If you had asked me, before reading this book, to give my prescription for creating a first-class writer, I don’t think the result would be far off.

Yet for all his cultural capital, Zweig does not come across as pretentious or pompous. He is timid, uncharismatic, and even mundane. It is easy to imagine bumping into him on the street. (Though, as Hermann Kesten wrote, the Zweig of reality was far more eccentric than than Zweig of this book.) As a writer, he is skilled, consistent, and accessible. In a word, his prose is fluent: easy to read and digest, even in large doses. He is always interesting and never overpowering, like an excellent dinner guest. The one quality he lacks is humor—a serious deficiency, but not a fatal one. Perhaps the best way to describe Zweig is that he is a sophisticated middle-brow author, which might be why the high-brow world has had trouble accepting him; unlike Milton, Zweig intended to soar a middle flight.

It is hard to criticize Zweig—the champion of European solidarity, whose message is especially important now—who asks so little and never imposes his views. But I must say that he had several blindspots.

First, I think that his narrative of events is deeply colored by his affluence. Zweig—a rich, successful, cosmopolitan intellectual—simply cannot imagine why anyone would do something so insane as to start a war. How is he to travel to Paris or to attend the theater festival in Brussels if men are fighting? His explanation of the conflict—which comes down to thoughtless stupidity—is historically unsatisfactory. And even though I, of course, agree with his anti-war ideals, I couldn’t help thinking that his social status prevented him from understanding why less fortunate people might be dissatisfied with his wonderful world.

More generally, I think that Zweig’s life demonstrates why art should not be made into a religion. Zweig did not only love art, he worshipped it. His intense focus on the objects that artistic geniuses have touched—their manuscripts and notebooks and even their furniture—reminded me of the reliquaries of Catholicism. Every time he introduces one of his famous acquaintances, he writes a mini-hagiography, obsequiously describing even his subject’s face, manners, and expressions, as if artistic skill sanctified one’s mortal frame.

I personally found it all very distasteful—how, for example, Zweig fetishized every item that was in Beethoven’s room when he died. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, of course; but it makes it very easy to confuse aesthetic with ethical values. This confusion leads to the kind of political apathy Zweig succumbed to. When the beautiful is all that matters, why worry about tawdry things like social welfare?

Zweig had the attractive, but ultimately vain, notion that he could live aloof from politics. He never mentions anything even remotely political in his fiction; he didn’t even vote. Then he is surprised and dismayed that politics follows him everywhere. Granted, he does have a political stance: he is a pacifist, a humanist, and an internationalist. But this stance is not the product of reasoned consideration; it is the stance that allows him to continue his life as a traveling author unmolested. To steal a phrase from Michael Hoffman’s scorchingly hostile review, he is more a passivist than a pacifist. What Zweig wants from politics, in other words, is what would be necessary for him not to bother with politics.

Now, it is worth asking whether we ought to live in a world where we have no choice but to pay attention to the dreary doings of politicians. Be that as it may, Zweig certainly didn’t have a choice, which led to the irony of this most apolitical of authors structuring his autobiography according to political events.

All these criticisms notwithstanding, I think most people will find here a fundamentally sane, humane, and liberal book. For my part, Zweig supported the right causes, if not always for the right reasons. One thing, however, is left unclear: the relation of this book to Zweig’s suicide. Zweig, along with his wife, ended his own life not long after finishing this book. One might expect this to be his final message to the world; but as the translator notes, it is difficult to read this as a long suicide note. Zweig talks of a future, his future, with more books to write and years to live. The book even ends with a paean to life.

Whatever reason Zweig ended his life, one thing was certain: the Vienna of his youth, the Vienna he so lovingly describes here, is mostly vanished. If I can judge from my short visit, the city is entirely changed: Vienna nowadays is a city of tourism. Instead of the music-loving, critical, and discerning audiences Zweig describes in theaters and concerts, the city is now full of tourists who will pay periwigged salesmen to attend generic Mozart concerts, which run identical programs of greatest-hits that tireless musicians perform nightly. In the streets, English and Chinese are more commonly heard than German. Of course, Vienna is still lovely and full of cultural treasures; but these cultural treasures are of the past now, not the living present.

Did Zweig sense this change coming? Maybe not in so many words, but I think he knew that his world had forever passed into memory. There was no putting Europe back into the same postwar shape after so much destruction and death. That past now exists only in museums, grand old buildings, and books like this.
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
495 reviews244 followers
May 2, 2021
دنیای دیروز نوشته اشتفان تسوایگ ، نویسنده و روزنامه نگار اتریشی ، خاطرات اوست اززندگی در وین ، پایتخت امپراطوری اتریش – مجارستان و سپس اتریش و در آخر اروپا قبل از جنگ جهانی اول ، در خلال جنگ ، پس از جنگ و ویرانی ، اروپا بین دو جنگ تا ظهور هیتلر و سپس اروپا در آستانه جنگ ..
تسوایگ با کلامی آمیخته با حسرت و افسوس از وین می گوید ، او که زاده وین است همواره با عشق به شهر خود می نگرد ، او عاشق سبک زندگی ایست که به تدریج در وین شکل گرفته ، تئاتر ، موسیقی ، فرهنگ کافه نشینی . ظهور طبقه متوسط و تلاش حاکمیت برای بهبود اوضاع کارگران و دادن آزادی های بیشتر به اتریشی ها و از جمله اشتفان تسوایگ حس امنیت داده است .
تصویری که تسوایگ از وین به عنوان بزرگترین شهر آلمانی زبان آن دوران ارائه داده واقعا رشک برانگیز است . رقابتی که میان وین قدیمی و با اصالت و برلین تازه به دوران رسیده شکل گرفته ، نویسنده به آلمانی ها طعنه می زند ، او آنها را قومی می خواند که همه چیز را برای خود می خواهند ، فلسفه ای که کاملا با دیدگاه تساهل اتریش در تضاد است .
تسوایگ که خود نویسنده ، روزنامه نگار ، آهنگساز ،نمایشنامه نویسی مشهور است از دیدارهای خود از شهرهای مختلف اروپا و با مشاهیر معروف آن گفته ، از دیدار با رومن رولان و روژه مارتن دوگار در پاریس تا دیدار با ماکسیم گورگی در ناپل ایتالیا ،
برنارد شاو و جیمز جویس در لندن .
با پیش رفتن اروپا به سمت جنگ اول ، تلاشهای تسوایگ و سایر صلح خواهان اروپا شدت می گیرد ، اما آنان سرانجام شکست می خورند ، جنگ از اتریش ، کشور اشتفان تسوایگ شروع می شود ، نویسنده با تلخی به ویرانی کشور خود و اروپا می نگرد .
پایان یافتن جنگ اول فرصتی ایست برای اروپا تا از خاکستر جنگ بر خیزد ، از امپراطوری اتریش تنها کشور کوچک اتریش باقی مانده و آن هم به مانند بیشتر شهرهای اروپا در زیر بار جنگ خُرد شده ، اما با وجود مشکلات فراوان و سقوط شدید کرون واحد پول اتریش ، آنها و اروپاییان شهرها و کشورهای خود را از نو ودوباره می سازند ، زندگی بار دیگر به اتریش و اروپا بازگشته است .
تسوایگ مانند یک سفیر صلح عمل می کند ، او برای خود رسالت فرهنگی در نظر گرفته ، او به ایتالیا که با اتریش دشمن قدیمی بوده ، می رود ،از او شهر به شهر مانند یک قهرمان استقبال می شود . در نگاه تسوایگ دیگر جنگی نخواهد بود و صلح بر اروپا پایدار خواهد بود .
اما آرزوهای تسوایگ و سایر صلح طلبان اروپا به زودی نقش بر آب می شود ، نازی ها در آلمان قدرت می گیرند و سپس در میان سکوت دموکراسی های غربی ، اتریش را تسخیر می کنند و قوانین ضد یهود خود را به اجرا می گذارند ،علاوه بر این که کتابهای تسوایک از کتاب فروشی ها جمع شده و به آتش کشیده می شوند ، او حتی دیگر حق نشستن بر صندلی ، رفتن به پارک و استفاده از سیستم حمل و نقل شهری را هم ندارد . تسوایگ طاقت ندارد ، به لندن رفته و تا سال 1940 درآنجا می ماند ، او در حالی که دیگر از صلح در اروپا ناامید شده به برزیل می رود .
طبع و ذات لطیف تسوایگ تحمل فجایعی که در اروپا می گذرد را ندارد ، اوحتی آن قدر زنده نمی ماند که شاهد اردوگاه های مرگ و کوره های آن و نسل کشی یهودیان باشد . در سال 42 او با طیب خاطر و در کمال صحت عقل پس از سپاسگذاری از برزیل و مهمان نوازی مردم آن و با آرزوی صبحی زیبا پس از شبی طولانی دست از زندگی شسته و به همراه همسرش خودکشی می کنند .
در پایان میراث تسوایگ و آنچه از او باقی مانده (از جمله کتاب هایش ) سخت شگفت انگیز است . او صلح طلبی بوده که همواره صلح را فریاد زده و با خشونت جنگیده و نبودن را به زیستن در سایه شوم استبداد و خودکامگی ترجیح داده است .
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews517 followers
October 28, 2021
Such Abounding Beauty; Such Utter Sadness and Despair Thereafter

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

Zweig's gorgeous descriptions and memories sweep one into the Hapsburg empire of the early 20th Century. He vividly captures the time's aesthetics, sophisticated culture, art and beauty of Vienna, like a dreamscape in homage to his homeland.

It was disorienting to drop into a palpable simulation of the fear and disbelief Zweig felt as a world-famous author who is forced to abandon his home and his homeland and run for his life. Because he was born Jewish.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Dani.
71 reviews45 followers
October 5, 2021
Inicio una de las resacas lectoras más complicadas con las que me he encontrado. Stefan Zweig se ha posicionado indudablemente como uno de los mejores escritores de novela corta. Se puede ir a ciegas con cualquiera de sus obras y se descubrirá un relato perfeccionista y estremecedor sobre sus miedos, envueltos en torno a la situación europea durante el siglo XX y protagonizados por personajes tan profundos e imperfectos que parecen reales.

El mundo de ayer se presenta como un relato desgarrador sobre un judío austríaco que tuvo que estar presente en el estallido de las dos guerras mundiales que sacudieron el continente europeo. Desde su infancia hasta el auge del nazismo, Zweig relata un periodo de unos sesenta años desde un punto de vista predominantemente cultural e intelectual. Así, el lector asiste a los teatros vieneses anteriores a la guerra, se adentra en los hogares de los mayores artistas del periodo y sufre el miedo y el horror ante el hundimiento de las principales potencias europeas.

Cada frase se convierte en prosa poética de la mano de un escritor con un control del lenguaje descomunal. Sus palabras impactan, duelen, remueven y enfurecen. Sólo se puede admirar y disfrutar de los pasajes cargados de historia y amor hacia una sociedad que se iba consumiendo con su propio aliento. La tristeza por la pérdida de oportunidades, por el fanatismo que se iba apoderando de la población y por el odio a determinados grupos está presente y brillantemente plasmado.

¿Entonces, qué ha fallado? El principal problema es que no encuentro a Zweig. Se pierde en relatos y su figura desaparece. Se convierte en un testigo alejado de las atrocidades que ocurrían a su alrededor, optando en ocasiones por una visión excesivamente inocente de la situación. El mundo de ayer no es una autobiografía, incluso sorprenden los comentarios tan abruptos y fugaces sobre su vida privada. Y todo esto es completamente lícito. Aun así, la narración se vuelve engañosa, ligeramente maquillada entre luces cegadoras de arte y cultura.

Zweig narra hechos históricos desde una posición socialmente privilegiada. En ocasiones, su particular visión parece encajar como si fuesen las piezas de un rompecabezas, pero omite eventos que no se amoldarían con tanta perfección, y convertirían su relato en hechos con una complejidad que no interesaba al escritor. También me sorprende como parece justificar su obnubilación ante el desastre que se avecinaba y, sin embargo, reprochaba la misma despreocupación cuando era el resto de la sociedad la que estaba cegada.

El libro está plagado de grandes autores y artistas del siglo XX, la mayoría de los cuales siguen siendo referentes en la actualidad. Auguste Rodin, Romain Rolland, H.G. Wells, Thomas Mann o James Joyce son sólo algunos ejemplos de todas las personalidades que ocuparon un hueco en su último testimonio. Sin embargo, en su mundo parece no haber espacio para la mujer. No cree conveniente ninguna mención de las aportaciones culturales e intelectuales que tuvieron muchas mujeres durante el siglo XX, pese a la guerra y pese a su mayor dificultad por destacar.

Por todo esto, me quedo con la sensación de no haber podido comprender a Stefan Zweig, de haberme perdido en su relato. Probablemente la ampliación de su obra con la reciente publicación de sus diarios ofrezca cierta luz a unos recuerdos que se me quedan incompletos. Aun así, conservo en la memoria la lección de escritura que ofrece en cada una de sus obras y la advertencia que Zweig querría transmitir a las generaciones futuras: ninguna sociedad está libre de la sombra que tiene que llevar a su espalda, pero sin embargo será responsable de la sombra que proyecte hacia adelante.
Profile Image for فهد الفهد.
Author 1 book4,768 followers
September 26, 2018
عالم الأمس

لو كان هناك قانون يجرم الذين يعيشون حياة مليئة من الأدباء والسياسيين، الاقتصاديين والعلماء، الباحثين وغيرهم، ثم لا يكتبون عن هذه الحياة، لا يحولون تجاربهم إلى كلمات، لو كان هذا القانون موجودا ً لربما كان أكثر المدانين من العرب.

فالعرب ولا فخر مقلون في كتابة السيرة الذاتية، بعكس الغربيين والذين تجد لمشاهيرهم سير متعددة، بل لديهم كتاب سير متخصصين.

وهذا ما كانه (ستيفان زفايج) في جزء من أعماله، كاتب سير، كتب عن بلزاك، ديكنز، دستويفسكي، نيتشه، ستاندال، تولستوي، وها هو في هذا الكتاب الأخير، الذي فرغ منه والعالم يقتل بعضه بعضا ً – 1942 م -، وهو بعيد على الجانب الآخر من الأرض – البرازيل -، ها هو يتوقف عن الكتابة عن الآخرين ليكتب عن نفسه.

تعرفت على زفايج مبكرا ً، قرأت روايته الجميلة (حذار من الشفقة) ��ات صيف بعيد، بترجمة حلمي مراد، وضمن سلسلة كتابي، ذات الأغلفة الجميلة، واللوحات الداخلية، والحجم الصغير الذي يجعلها أكثر من ملائمة لممارسة القراءة، بعيدا ً عن العيون الفضولية، التي كانت تزعج المراهق الذي كنته.

لازلت أذكر الرواية جيدا ً، رغم كل تلك السنوات، وهذا لا يحدث مع الكثير من الكتب، ولكن يبدو أن بعضها ذات كلابات تجعلها تعلق في الذاكرة، وتكون عصية على النسيان.

ولكن هذه المعرفة المبكرة بزفايج لم تعن شيئا ً، لم أوفق للحصول على كتب أخرى له، أي فرصة كانت في تلك الأيام للحصول على كتاب جيد !!! أو معرفة هل ترجم لهذا الكاتب كتب أخرى أم لا؟ كان الحصول على الكتب يعتمد في جله على الحظ، لا على الاختيار والانتقاء، فلذا لم تتطور هذه المعرفة كثيرا ً، وانقطعت حتى حصلت في هذه السنة على كتابين لزفايج، الأول هو كتابه التاريخي (ساعات القدر في تاريخ البشرية) – ترجمة محمد جديد، ونشر دار المدى - ، والثاني هو مذكرات زفايج هذه والتي عنونها بكل حسرة (عالم الأمس).

لن نفهم هذه الحسرة، حتى نقرأ الكتاب كاملا ً، ولكننا سنلمسها من الصفحة الأولى، عندما يبدأ ستيفان مذكراته بهذه السطور "وأنا أحاول أن أجد صيغة بسيطة للفترة التي نشأت فيها قبل الحرب العالمية الأولى، آمل أن تكون تسميتي لها (عصر الأمن الذهبي) وافية بالغرض"، هذا الأمن الذي يكتب عنه ويصفه زفايج بحرارة وبكلمات تنفذ إلى القلب، لم تبدده الحرب فقط، الحرب كانت البداية التي حولت عصر العقل الذي ظن الأوروبيون أنهم وصلوا إليه، إلى عصر اللا عقل واللا معنى، عصر الوحشية، ولأن زفايج كان نمساويا ً، يعيش في ظل الإمبراطورية النمساوية المترهلة، والتي انهارت بعد الحرب العالمية الأولى، ولأنه أيضا ً كان يهوديا ً ملاحقا ً من قبل النازيين قبل وأثناء الحرب العالمية الثانية، فلذا فقد كل شيء، الأمن الذهبي الذي نشأ في ظله، الوطن، مقتنياته الثمينة من المخطوطات التي جمعها على مدى عمره، صداقاته، هويته، وقام النازيون بحرق كتبه علنا ً، وكان هذا الكتاب آخر ما كتب، قبل أن ينتحر في البرازيل، وقد فقد إيمانه بهذا العالم البشع.

كان انتحار زفايج، ورسالته الأخيرة مفاجئ لي، لأني قرأت الكتاب كله وأنا لا أعلم بمصير الرجل، حتى وصلت إلى الصفحة الأخيرة حيث تعقيب الناشر والذي يوضح فيه نهاية زفايج.

هذه الصدمة جعلتني ألاحظ أن زفايج لم يكتب في هذا الكتاب عن نفسه حقا ً، أي أن زفايج الكاتب والأديب لم يكن موجودا ً في هذا الكتاب، من كان موجودا ً زفايج الإنسان، زفايج الذي عصفت به السياسة، والحروب، والكراهية، بحيث كتب عندما أراد أن يتحدث عن نفسه، عن السياسة، عن جهوده في الحرب العالمية الأولى ومراسلاته ومقالاته في نبذ الحرب، والأمل بعودة السلام بين الأوروبيين، لم يتحدث زفايج في هذا الكتاب عن الكتب، لم يتحدث عن أعماله كثيرا ً، لم يكن الكاتب فيه من يتحدث إلينا، بل كان الرجل، المفكر، والإنسان المطحون.

عالم الأمس

ستيفان زفايج

ترجمة: عارف حديفة

الناشر: دار المدى

الطبعة الأولى 2007 م

343 صفحة
Profile Image for Lyubov.
363 reviews193 followers
September 16, 2019
Абсолютно прекрасна книга. Изящество и ерудиция от най-висока класа.
Profile Image for piperitapitta.
951 reviews332 followers
January 5, 2018
Uno, Zweig, centomila!

Io sono stordita da questa lettura.
Leggo le parole di Zweig e ho voglia di leggere Henry James.
Continuo a leggere Zweig e ho voglia di leggere Schnitzler.
Leggo Zweig e ritrovo Maugham.
Che meraviglia, Vienna, Berlino, Parigi e ancora Hertzl, Rilke, Valéry, Rodin!
Un meraviglioso tuffo nella storia della letteratura di inizio secolo, nella storia dell'arte, nella storia e nella distruzione dell'umanità attraverso le due guerre mondiali; il sogno di un'Europa unita, il ricordo di un mondo in cui per passare i confini e viaggiare da un continente all'altro non servivano documenti e passaporti ma bastava semplicemente avere un biglietto, imbarcarsi e partire; la speranza di un mondo in cui tutti gli intellettuali - e quanti ne ha conosciuti Zweig, vengono i brividi solo a pensarci! - potessero dimenticarsi di quale nazionalità fossero per opporsi alla guerra.
Purtroppo così non è stato e se nelle pagine di Zweig prevalgono lo sgomento e l'incredulità, se la fine dell'impero asburgico l'aveva segnato ma non demolito, se l'avvento di Hitler l'aveva ferito ma non spezzato, nella breve prefazione da lui scritta si percepisce tutto il dramma di un uomo diventato non più apolide, come forse aveva sempre desiderato essere, ma senza patria nel senso più ampio del termine e senza terra, di un uomo arrivato allo stremo delle forze interiori e ad un passo dalla resa.
Bellissimo, intenso e colmo di dolore.
Profile Image for Murtaza .
664 reviews3,401 followers
May 7, 2020
Stefan Zweig lived through the death of a world that he loved. Born and raised during the cultural apex of Vienna, he became a famous writer and advocate of European unity who made the acquaintance of some of the most brilliant poets and thinkers of his time. His memoir is both a time capsule of a Europe that was destroyed during the World Wars and a meditation of the impact of mass politics on an individual life. From living in a world where he believed, like many of us today, that "nothing bad could ever happen," he was forced to watch the violent degeneration of his country and continent, before he himself was driven into exile from his home. He committed suicide along with his wife in 1942.

Its hard to convey what a powerful and moving book this is. I've been looking for a book like it for a long time. Zweig lived through so many different changes in one lifetime: moral, technological and political, and his insights into what life was like growing up in late-19th century Vienna almost sound like they come from another planet. What is more incredible is that he anticipated readers would feel this way even in 1941, when the book was written. The pace of change that has existed in the world since the dawn of modernity has been such that its hard to get a handle on reality. Its a disconcerting feeling that is not at all like the stable way that our ancestors lived. Things move so fast that the beginning of one life and its end appear wholly unlike each other. One can only wonder whether we will experience political change to the same monumental degrees that Zweig did.

This is definitely a book I will return to again and again. In many ways, its a very simple one. Just a memoir of a life in the past century. But the evocative prose and beautiful depictions of the world that he lived in make it really special, as does its bracketing within tragedy. The pain of loss is so much greater because you see how much Zweig loved his life and the old European civilization he contributed to. The writing itself is some of the best I've ever come across. I would recommend this book in any context, but its even more relevant during the present political moment. Zweig did not just write for vanity; his memoir was a warning about what can happen to even the most secure and stable society. I think he'd be gratified to know it had some utility for people 70 years after it was published.
Profile Image for Anne .
444 reviews360 followers
December 3, 2020
This review is somewhat and disjointed and incomplete. In the course of writing this review i read an article about Zweig which called into question how Zweig portrays himself in this memoir. This article is rather damning of Zweig. Among other things, the article accuses Zweig of being a master at manipulating his public image and gives many examples of this, countering much that is in his memoir. He is accused of lying by Hannah Arendt, no less. I became distracted by this article and left my review as it stood in order to do further research which led me to the opinion that the one negative article among many other positive articles should all just stand as they are, as opinions or biases which can no longer be confirmed because all the relevant people are dead. In the same vein, this memoir can stand as it is, as a beautiful memoir documenting a life and a culture between pre-WW1 to pre-WW2. If this memoir is biased it is no different from any other memoir since memoirs, by their nature, are biased. In general, people do not always see themselves as others see them.

This is a beautifully written, poignant and informative memoir. Though it is lengthy it does not ramble. The writing is not as tight as his novellas, but I was interested in everything Zweig had to say.

This memoir, sadly, is still relevant today. Roger Cohen quotes from it in the op ed piece published in the New York Times today. Interesting article. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/04/op....

This is an excellent document about Vienna pre and post WW1. Zweig brought Vienna alive for me, both the social norms and how they changed over time as well as the artistic and intellectual life of the city which he loved. I was very moved by and interested in all that I read.

Zweig's writes at length about the very strict school system in Vienna which was both infantilizing and rigid. He quotes Freud who also grew up in the same system:

"The main purpose of school was to hold us back...to fit us into the established mode. "It may be no coincidence that the inferiority complexes were revealed by men who'd been through the old Austrian schools themselves," e.g. Freud, et al..."

In Zweig's words, "It was always impressed on a boy that he didn't know anything yet, didn't understand anything and if he asked a question he was told he was too young..... Just listen.... don't ask questions" .

They took their eagerness to learn and their curiosity about art and culture to the Viennese coffee houses where they could read all the German newspapers and get and share all information on what was going on in the arts. They'd sit for hours discussing together, in constant competition about information about music, the arts, anything.... They read as many books as they could and shared these books.

After finishing school, Zweig lived in Paris. Zweig waxes poetic about how free and wonderful life was in Paris compared to Vienna. He writes of the community of artists in Paris to which he belonged. They lived simply, near poverty level, but subsidized by the government with small jobs, devoted to their art. Zweig tells anecdotes about all of the artists he met, like Rilke. He wrote a beautiful portrait of a very sensitive Rilke, his nature, his habits, and the way he dressed and lived.
He also told a lovely vignette about visiting Rodin and watching him paint. Apparently Rodin painted with such complete concentration he forgot Zweig was there.

Zweig seemed to have knack for making friends and became friends with all of the major artists and intellectuals of his time.

After meeting so many great artists it took Zweig 30 years to write his first novel. He wrote plays and essays instead. He was completely enamored and, I think, intimated by great artists and their process. He became a great collector of items that belonged to artists and showed the artistic process. He loved to find or be given first drafts of novels, for instance, with the writer's notes in the margins.

Zweig wrote that he was doubtful of his own literary works. He identified with the "losers" in his works, not the heroes; those who are "struck down by fate." In the biographies he identifies with those who are morally right but not successful.

Zweig writes poignantly about WW1 and it's devastation and deprivations and then the 10 years following during which a better and freer life came to Austria.

By 50, Zweig had become a renowned playwright and his first novel was published. Hitler and his blackshirts are in the picture now. Zweig lives a stones throw from Berchtesgaden and had been going there almost every day enjoying it's beauty and enjoying his life and the new Austria which had been slowly rebuilt after WWI.

Zweig writes about his lack of confidence, which is why it took him 30 years to write his one novel. He writes that he was always surprised when a play of his was accepted. He traveled throughout his own country but also to Italy, France, and America and elsewhere to see his plays performed. He made friends with artists and writers wherever he traveled.

Zweig sees WWII coming while many of his friends believed he was too sensitive and anxious. Zweig writes:

"Many people, especially intellectuals, didn't take Hitler seriously because Germany had never had an uneducated man in high office."

Zweig tells an anecdote about working as Strauss's librettist. Strauss, a favorite of Hitler, claimed to be apolitical but Zweig claims that Strauss was trying to safeguard his work. Also, his son's wife was Jewish so he wanted to remain popular with Hitler. The Nazis had a big dilemma about whether to allow Stauss' new opera to go on, given that Zweig, his librettist, was a Jew. Zweig wrote that enjoyed their dilemma. Hitler decided to allow the production to go forward, but it was canceled after the 2nd performance because Hitler learned that Strauss had Zweig start working on a libretto for his next opera."

As the situation in Austria deteriorated Zweig's non-Jewish friends didn't want to be seen in public with him anymore; Zweig would notice them avoiding him if they saw him on the street.

After the police raided his house looking for guns, he writes that he then understood that his personal liberty was at risk. He began packing that same night, went to London and gave up his Austrian residence. He rented a small flat in London and stayed for 6 years, between 1934-1940.

He writes, "I was in a strange place again. Everything I had done and been had drifted away. I faced another beginning."

But he also had some good times in London. He tells an anecdote about lunching with George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells. "They were sparring verbally.. 2 of the finest minds in England ... a dazzling display of dialogue.... I'd seen nothing better in a play before or since."

In 1940 he left London, continuing his life of exile. "However far I went from Europe it's fate came with me". Wherever he traveled, the US, Brazil, or back to Austria he couldn't escape the news. "Every morning, I was afraid of picking up a newspaper and seeing a headline announcing the fall of Austria." " Reading about negotiations over Austria between Hitler and Britain made his hands shake."

He went back to Vienna for a quick visit to see his mother and old friends. His friends still were not worried about war. "For the first time I was distressed by the eternally light-hearted attitude of old Vienna which I always used to love so much .... I will dream of it all my life." He walked around Vienna and looked at every one of the familiar streets, parks and gardens, "every old nook and cranny where I had been born with a desperate silent farewell. in my mind...I embraced my mother with the same secret knowledge that it was for the last time." As the train passed the border out of Austria I didn't look. ... I knew, like Lot... all behind me was dust and ashes, the past transformed into a pillar of bitter salt."

Later, he suffered hearing about the suffering of those he loved after Austria was annexed by Germany. He was relieved to hear of his mother's death, age 84, that she would not suffer under the Nazis."

Zweig lost his passport while traveling. . To travel he spent hours filling out forms, waiting to speak to officials, being searched at crossing points. He felt it was demeaning. He spent more time reading regulations than books. "Nothing was our right but a favor granted by authorities."

With emigration he felt less confident. "I don't feel like I belong entirely to myself anymore. My natural identity is destroyed."

This is an interesting statement coming from Zweig. He was not alone in this feeling. In Los Angeles there were dozens of famous artists of all living in exile from Germany and elsewhere. Many were very successful and seemingly led fulfilling lives, but underneath that success were dark feelings about Los Angeles and about living in exile. In a New Yorker article, The Haunted California Idyll of German Writers in Exile, dated March 2, 2020, the author writes, "even the most resourceful of the émigrés faced psychological turmoil. Whatever their opinion of L.A., they could not escape the universal condition of the refugee, in which images of the lost homeland intrude on any attempt to begin anew. They felt an excruciating dissonance between their idyllic circumstances and the horrors that were unfolding in Europe. Furthermore, they saw the all too familiar forces of intolerance and indifference lurking beneath America’s shining façades. To revisit exile literature against the trajectory of early-twentieth-century politics makes one wonder: What would it be like to flee one’s native country in terror or disgust, and start over in an unknown land?"

The list of German emigres is impressive: Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Salka Viertel , Alfred Doblin, Lion Feuchtwanger, Vicki Baum, Alma Mahler-Werfel, the widow of Gustav Mahler, lived with her third husband, the best-selling Austrian writer Franz Werfel, Bruno Walter. Elisabeth Hauptmann, the co-author of “The Threepenny Opera,” Peter Lorre, e philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer. These writers lived very close to each other and were "at the core of a European émigré community that also included the film directors Fritz Lang, Max Ophuls, Otto Preminger, Jean Renoir, Robert Siodmak, Douglas Sirk, Billy Wilder, and William Wyler; the theatre directors Max Reinhardt and Leopold Jessner; the actors Marlene Dietrich and Hedy Lamarr; the architects Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra; and the composers Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

So what made Zweig different from all of these artists, some of whom he could claim as friends?

I'm not sure that I can answer that question but I do know Zweig struggled with depression throughout his life. His first wife reported that he asked her to suicide with him while they were married. This depression could have tipped the scales for him, and perhaps, being depressed while in exile, not making the best decisions for himself. For one thing, he never tried living in Los Angeles where he would have had friends. He thought that the mountains of Brazil would be the place most similar to Vienna. This I do not understand, though I have never been to Brazil. So he lived an isolated life in the mountains for a few months before killing himself.
Profile Image for Emilio Gonzalez.
170 reviews62 followers
April 2, 2021
Un excelente libro en el que Stefan Zweig refiere los vientos de cambio que fueron sacudiendo a Europa desde fines del siglo XIX hasta la Segunda Guerra Mundial

Aunque el libro seria algo así como las memorias del autor, el verdadero protagonista aquí es Europa, porque Zweig va desmenuzando con una mirada muy aguda los hechos que marcaron al continente desde los últimos años del siglo XIX hasta los primeros de la Segunda guerra Mundial, pasando por las costumbres sociales y el esplendor artístico de fines del siglo XIX, las tensiones políticas que llevaron a la Primera Guerra Mundial y las posturas de distintas personalidades a favor y en contra de esa guerra tremendamente cruel, la posguerra y la devastadora inflación que generó pobreza y hambruna en Austria y Alemania, para terminar contando como un cronista de lujo como se fue viviendo el ascenso del nacionalsocialismo en Alemania y la cronología de los hechos que desencadenaron en la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Acompañando la crónica de lo político y social de esa arrolladora primer mitad del siglo XX en Europa, comparte también, aunque sin entrar en demasiados detalles, algunos hechos de su vida privada, muchos de los cuales tienen relación con su vida artística y cultural que incluye anécdotas sobre la amistad y relación que Zweig tuvo con personalidades únicas como Freud, Dalí, Rilke, Strauss, Yeats, Rodin, Joyce, Pirandello y tantos otros.

Stefan Zweig nació en 1881 en Viena y se quitó la vida junto a su esposa en Brasil en 1942, escapando del nazismo.

Me parece un libro súper recomendable desde lo artístico e histórico con la calidad y sencillez a la que Zweig nos tiene acostumbrados en sus novelas y biografías; realmente no tiene desperdicio.

Un dato a tener en cuenta es que esta edición está plagada de errores tipográficos, que aunque no alteran la lectura pueden llegar a ser bastante molestos.
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