Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Zweig, etc.

Decided to reread Stefan Zweig (whatever I have read), and read the books by him that I haven't read yet.

Zweig is really good. I have even read some of his biographies (I mean biographies of other people written by him), even though I don't care much for biography.

Why is it that Zweig and many other German-language authors (Frisch, Durrenmatt, Feuchtwanger) are so much harder to find in English and Finnish translations than in Russian? I get the impression that pretty much only the students of German read them here, which is too bad, because they are really good, and also because this means that they are mostly available in German and I can't read it.

OK, getting the books is not a problem nowadays, what with the Amazon and a lot of books in Russian translation in the public library, but I am kind of annoyed at not having anyone to talk about them with.

Reading The World of Yesterday now. It's his autobiography, more about the world around him than about himself.

He was born in 1881 in a failry wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, and was more interested in art and literature than in politics or money. He describes the Vienna of his youth as a place where it seemed that the country would last forever, the world is finally fairly stable, nationalism is a thing of the past, tolerance and mutual understanding between people and cultures have been achieved, the poor and destitute are well cared for, etc.

Damn, was he surprised... Twice, no less, what with WWI and WWII.

In spite of the fact that the world of his adulthood was hell in comparison with the world of his youth, he was capable of both discerning and welcoming the good things in this new world: the technical progress, the demise of victorianism, etc.

He and his wife killed themselves in Brazil in 1942, despairing in the future of Europe and European culture.

Too bad. He was just the kind of guy who would have probably greatly enjoyed the postwar Europe. One could think that the man who was so surprised by his world twice could suspect that the world might surprise him for the third time, but I guess not...

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