On Discovering Stefan Zweig

Austrian author Stefan Zweig (November 28, 1881 – February 22, 1942) was a novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer who, at the height of his literary career in the 1920s and 1930s, was one of the most famous writers in the world. While he’s still widely read in Europe, he’s fallen into relative obscurity in North America, though there are publishers who have been actively making efforts to get him back in print in the English language. I’d heard of Zweig before because of several readers who had a lot of good things to say about his posthumously published novel The Post Office Girl. That book went on my wishlist some time in 2011, where it sits among hundreds of others, so I may very well have left it at that for a good long while. Then, less than a month ago, while I was surfing around the net, I saw that there were recently issued audiobooks of his work in French translation. I decide to check the library catalogue and sure enough, found a whole treasure trove of Stefan Zweig recordings, free! Usually when I haven’t read anything by a specific author, I start with one book to get a feeling for his or her writing, but since Zweig mostly wrote short stories, I went ahead and borrowed all they had on audio, and ended up with just over half a dozen titles, including a biography on Marie-Antoinette. I had a feeling I would like him very much and decided to listen to the books in the original publication order. Last night I started with Letter From an Unknown Woman (originally published in 1922 under the title Brief einer Unbekannten, or Lettre dune inconnue in French, read by Léa Drucker), in which a woman who’s child has died moments ago, admits to a lifelong obsession to a famous writer. It’s safe to say I LOVED my first Zweig and was very affected by it. I thought I’d best take a break between his stories, no matter how short, because of the sheer potency of the emotions he evokes. But today I went ahead and listened to the next novel in line, 1925’s Fear, which was read by the French actress Fanny Ardant and which I finished a couple of hours ago… I’m thankful I was in the quiet of my own home at that moment because the ending made such a strong impression on me that I shed a few tears. What a wonderful writer. I’m very glad I’ve finally discovered him. Next up will be either Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman or Confusion: The Private Papers of Privy Councillor R. von D., which were originally published together, along with a third story, in 1927. I’ll be sure to share my reviews on all these once I’ve gotten around to writing them, though the only thing I can think of to say about those two I’ve listened to already is: you must discover this author as soon as you get a chance.

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8 thoughts on “On Discovering Stefan Zweig

  1. In my teens i read and was fascinated with “The royal game” (“The chess story”).
    Glad you discovered this incredible writer

    • Chess Story is another of his books I got from the library (also on audio), I’m glad you’ve mentioned it. I’ll be getting to that one later as it was published near the end of his life, in 1942.

    • I hadn’t heard of Plunkett Lake Press before, thanks for pointing us in that direction. I see you have an interesting stable of writers, all unknown to me but worth discovering I’m sure.

    • Amazing to think he was one of the best known writers once and is now known only by a comparatively small readership, at least here in North America. But I understand he’s still widely read in Europe and no doubt in France too. I hope you enjoy him when you get to him. His fiction is all quite short, and he has an interesting range of non-fiction as well. xx

  2. Glad to hear you’ve found the Zweig stories so powerful. He’s an author I’ve had on my wishlist since seeing so many recommendations for him on LibraryThing but I still haven’t read any of his books.

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