If there is a characteristic feature in the style of this writer, social activist and Austrian biographer, it is the meticulous care in psychological construction of his characters. This feature is so enriching for the reader as it is his careful narrative technique.
Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was born in Vienna and grew up in a privileged economic and cultural environment, within a well-off Jewish family. He received his doctorate in philosophy and studied History of Literature. In these courses, he was associated with prominent names in cultural circles, he began writing poetry and, years later, he published his first novel.
He also did other genres, such as essays and theater, and translated Verlaine and Baudelaire. In the 1920s, his name was notorious, and titles such as ‘Jeremiah’ were pioneers in protesting against the intervention of Germany in World War II. When war broke out, he was exiled to Switzerland, where he worked as a correspondent for the Viennese free press and continued to criticize the war through his articles in favor of tolerance. His story ‘Decisive Moments in History’ was a great success in this regard.
He met great personalities, from Hermann Hesse to Thomas Mann, Maxim Gorky, Rainer M. Rilke and Albert Einstein, whom he visited in the exile of the physicist at the University of Princeton, United States. He wrote the libretto for the opera The Silent Woman, by Richard Strauss, but Hitler banned the play due to the Jewish origin of Zweig.
Nazism forced him to travel more frequently, to places where he could feel safe: Paris, London, Bath (England), United States, Argentina and Paraguay were among his destinations. In the end, he settled with his second wife in Petropolis (Brazil). Believing that Nazism would spread through the world without remedy, he decided with his wife to commit suicide.
His books were banned in Germany and only over the years we have got to know the work of Stefan Zweig, to discover a great biographer – books about Marie Antoinette, Mary Stuart or Dovstoievski are incomparable – and a moving novelist (‘The Eyes of the Eternal Brother’, ‘The Royal Game’, ‘Letter from an Unknown’, among many others). Let’s remember some of his most celebrated ideas:
In pain one becomes increasingly sensitive; suffering prepares the ground for the soul, and the pain of the plow to tear the interior, prepares all spiritual fruit.
It is not enough to think about death, but we must have it before us ever. Then life becomes more solemn, more important, more fruitful and joyful.
Nothing makes people the most unnatural and insubordinate as a long and constant idleness.
If some art I know is to resign, because I do not regret that, having a thousand written pages, eight hundred are ending up in the trash and only two hundred are kept as quintessence.
No joy for one who has not walked the path of pain.
The spiritual man should not join any party; His kingdom is that of justice, which is everywhere on the question.
Only the person who has experienced light and darkness, war and peace, and failure and success, only that person has a real life experience.
No sacrifice is meaningless if you realize that it is a sacrifice.
I wish you all the best,