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If you had to live inside one of the following pictures, which one would you choose Choice A Choice B 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 time Just to make sure, okay One time You have two choices Choice A Choice B 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 generallyas 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 worldwas 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, itfascinates him inordinately , he decides not to go to class becauseI did not meet a single man there whose knowledge would have held me spellboundIn Paris, this is how he describes the sceneworkers 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 propertyA 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 aseven in private conversation, articulating every word clearly, every constant being sharply pronounced, every vowel full and clearHe 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 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 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 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 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 about those messier moments in between often There was a lot of honesty here, a lot of joy and passion and delight and sorrow I just wish he felt comfortable complicating things for us and showing 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 , that the first war indeed did end You look towards the future and towards a free, dancing Paris once 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 , 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. 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 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 si cle 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 mindHighly recommended I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it But I will say, he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvelous graceMr Mustafa, The Grand Budapest HotelA few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to see the most recent Wes Anderson movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel Though my lowly opinion of his work had whipped back and forth from brilliant emotional set pieces to stuffy kitsch, this most recent movie had thankfully one of amazement, of gratitude, and loss.The plot of the movie is ostensibly a comedy story about a forged will, a famous painting, with a bit of action and raunchiness tossed in It s all well crafted, from the diction of the dialogue to the set details and the weaving of the costume But then, as the story draws to a close, view spoiler war breaks out, one of the main characters is shot by the secret police, the love interest dies from disease, and we are brought back to the present The grand hotel is a decrepit husk, and the writer who tells us this story is under a worn grave, where a small cadre of fans keep his memories and works alive This all happens in the span of about ten minutes hide spoiler 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.Notes Painting Stefan Zweig, oil on canvas via flickr ( Free Epub ) ♢ Die Welt von Gestern: Erinnerungen eines Europäers ♠ Stefan Zweig S Memoir, The World Of Yesterday, Recalls The Golden Age Of Prewar Europe Its Seeming Permanence, Its Promise And Its Devastating Fall With The Onset Of Two World Wars Zweig S Passionate, Evocative Prose Paints A Stunning Portrait Of An Era That Danced Brilliantly On The Brink Of Extinction It Is An Unusually Humane Account Of Europe From The Closing Years Of The Th Century Through To World War II, Seen Through The Eyes Of One Of The Most Famous Writers Of His Era Zweig S Books Novels, Biographies, Essays Were Translated Into Numerous Languages, And He Moved In The Highest Literary Circles He Also Encountered Many Leading Political And Social Figures Of His DayThe World Of Yesterday Is A Remarkable, Totally Engrossing History This Translation By The Award Winning Anthea Bell Captures The Spirit Of Zweig S Writing In Arguably His Most Important Work, Completed Shortly Before His Tragic Death In It Is Read With Sympathy And Understanding By David Horovitch Once 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 paradiseBut 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 furyOnce 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 curseIf 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 doomMy 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. 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 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. I am now a writer who, as Grillparzer said, walks behind his corpse in his own lifetime Stefan ZweigAfter 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 and 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 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 ViennaImagine 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. 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 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 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, 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. 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 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.