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Stefan Zweig (1881-1942): Home

Last Updated: Jan 8, 2024 4:38 PM

Stefan Zweig (28 November 1881 – 22 February 1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most widely translated and most popular writers in the world. Zweig was raised in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. He wrote historical studies of famous literary figures, such as Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, and Fyodor Dostoevsky in Drei Meister (1920; Three Masters), and decisive historical events in Sternstunden der Menschheit (1928; published in English in 1940 as The Tide of Fortune: Twelve Historical Miniatures). He wrote biographies of Joseph Fouché (1929), Mary Stuart (1935) and Marie Antoinette (Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman, 1932), among others. Zweig's best-known fiction includes Letter from an Unknown Woman (1922), Amok (1922), Fear (1925), Confusion (1927), Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman (1927), the psychological novel Ungeduld des Herzens (Beware of Pity, 1939), and The Royal Game (1941).
In 1934, as a result of the Nazi Party's rise in Germany, Zweig emigrated to England and then, in 1940, moved briefly to New York and then to Brazil, where he settled. In his final years, he would declare himself in love with the country, writing about it in the book Brazil, Land of the Future. Nonetheless, as the years passed Zweig became increasingly disillusioned and despairing at the future of Europe, and he and his wife Lotte were found dead of a barbiturate overdose in their house in Petrópolis on 23 February 1942; they had died the previous day. His work has been the basis for several film adaptations. Zweig's memoir, Die Welt von Gestern (The World of Yesterday, 1942), is noted for its description of life during the waning years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under Franz Joseph I and has been called the most famous book on the Habsburg Empire.*
On this page you can find the best resources for exploring Zweig's life and work. Each book listed below is linked to WorldCat, where you can discover library holdings for that item in your region. Books within gallery boxes are arranged either by publication date, newest to oldest, or alphabetically.
*Text source: Wikipedia (edited). This version of Wikipedia content is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Owing in part to the efforts of the British-based publishing house Pushkin Press, there is a plethora of Zweig’s works currently available in English, much of it translated by the award-winning translator Anthea Bell, and much of it focused on Zweig’s narrative output from the 1920s, the period when, according to one study published at the time, he constituted the world’s most translated author. Among them are classical novellas such as Confusion (which delighted Sigmund Freud), Amok, and Letter from an Unknown Woman; essay volumes that comprise Zweig’s travel writings and political commentaries (such as Journeys and Europe on the Brink); and a new translation of his immensely popular compilation of history snapshots, Shooting Stars: Ten Historical Miniatures, which focuses on such world-changing events as the first telegraph message cabled from to Newfoundland to Valentia Island, Ireland, or the rediscovery of George Frideric Händel. Of Zweig’s dramatic works, the only extant English translation, the wartime play Jeremiah (1917), is currently out of print. Zweig’s considerable output as a poet, the genre in which he first rose to prominence and fame in early twentieth-century Vienna, is yet to receive its first book-length rendition into English.
--Birger Vanwesenbeeck, Feb. 2021


On a sweltering ocean-liner travelling from India to Europe a passenger tells his story: the tale of a doctor in the Dutch East Indies torn between his duty and the pull of his emotions; a tale of power and desire, pride and shame and a headlong flight into folly. This is one the most intense and incisive of the novellas which brought Stefan Zweig to worldwide fame.

A casual introduction, a challenge to a simple game of chess, a lovers’ reunion, a meaningless infidelity: from such small seeds Zweig brings forth five startlingly tense tales--meditations on the fragility of love, the limits of obsession, the combustibility of secrets and betrayal. To read anything by Zweig is to risk addiction; in this collection the power of his writing--which, with its unabashed intensity and narrative drive, made him one of the bestselling and most acclaimed authors in the world--is clear and irresistible. Each of these stories is unforgettable.

Stefan Zweig was a born eulogist. In this collection of powerful elegies, homages and personal memories, Zweig forms a richly interconnected portrait of key creative figures in the European cultural diaspora up to 1939. Many of those mourned or celebrated here cast a long spiritual shadow over Zweig’s own writing life: Verhaeren, Rolland, Nietzsche, Roth, Mahler, Rilke and Freud. Zweig’s farewells, souvenirs and declarations of gratitude demonstrate his ardent pan-Europeanism and rich friendships across borders. Elegant and haunting, these tributes are a monument to his reverence for the arts and his belief in the sacredness of individualism.

"When I am on a journey, all ties suddenly fall away. I feel myself quite unburdened, disconnected, free – There is something in it marvellously uplifting and invigorating. Whole past epochs suddenly return: nothing is lost, everything still full of inception, enticement." For the insatiably curious and ardent Europhile Stefan Zweig, travel was both a necessary cultural education and a personal balm for the depression he experienced when rooted in one place for too long. He spent much of his life weaving between the countries of Europe, visiting authors and friends, exploring the continent in the heyday of international rail travel. Comprising a lifetime’s observations on Zweig’s travels in Europe, this collection can be dipped into or savoured at length, and paints a rich and sensitive picture of Europe before the Second World War.

Stefan’s Zweig’s Letter from an Unknown Woman and Other Stories contains a new translation by the award-winning Anthea Bell of one of his most celebrated novellas, Letter from an Unknown Woman, the inspiration for a classic 1948 Hollywood film by Max Ophüls, as well as three new stories, appearing in English for the first time. A famous author receives a letter on his forty-first birthday. He doesn’t know the sender, but still the letter concerns him intimately. Its story is earnest, even piteous: the story of a life lived in service to an unannounced, unnoticed love. In the other stories in this collection, a young man mistakes the girl he loves for her sister; two erstwhile lovers meet after an age spent apart; and a married woman repays a debt of gratitude. All four tales, newly translated by the award-winning Anthea Bell, are among Zweig’s most celebrated and compelling work.

As Europe faced its darkest days, Stefan Zweig was a passionate voice for tolerance, peace and a world without borders. In these moving, ardent essays, speeches and articles, composed before and during the Second World War, one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers mounts a defence of European unity against terror and brutality. These haunting lost messages, all appearing in English for the first time and some newly discovered, distil Zweig’s courage, belief and richness of learning to give the essence of a writer; a spiritual will and testament to stand alongside his memoir, The World of Yesterday. Brief and yet intense, they are a tragic reminder of a world lost to the ‘bloody vortex of history’, but also a powerful statement of one man’s belief in the creative imagination and the potential of humanity, with a resounding relevance today.

Ten turning points in history, vividly sketched by the great Stefan Zweig. "Such dramatically concentrated, such fateful hours, in which a timeless decision hangs on a single date, a single hour, even just a single minute, rarely occur in everyday life, and only rarely in the course of history." One of the twentieth century’s great humanists and a hugely popular fiction writer, Stefan Zweig’s historical works bring the past to life in brilliant Technicolor. This collection contains ten typically breathless and erudite dramatizations of some of the most tense and important episodes in human history. From General Grouchy’s failure to intervene at Waterloo, to the miraculous resurrection of George Frideric Handel, this, Stefan Zweig’s selection of historical turning points, newly translated by Anthea Bell, is idiosyncratic, fascinating and as always hugely readable.

"I had never heard of Zweig until six or seven years ago, as all the books began to come back into print, and I more or less by chance bought a copy of Beware of Pity. I immediately loved this book, his one, big, great novel--and suddenly there were dozens more in front of me waiting to read." --Wes Anderson The Society of the Crossed Keys contains Wes Anderson’s selections from the writings of the great Austrian author Stefan Zweig, whose life and work inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel. "A Conversation with Wes Anderson": Wes Anderson discusses Zweig’s life and work with Zweig biographer George Prochnik. "The World of Yesterday": Selected extracts from Zweig’s memoir, The World of Yesterday, an unrivalled evocation of bygone Europe. "Beware of Pity": An extract from Zweig’s only novel, a devastating depiction of the torment of the betrayal of both honour and love. "Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman": One of Stefan Zweig’s best-loved stories in full--a passionate tale of gambling, love and death, played out against the stylish backdrop of the French Riviera in the 1920s.

"The time provides the pictures, I merely speak the words to go with them, and it will not be so much my own story I tell as that of an entire generation – our unique generation, carrying a heavier burden of fate than almost any other in the course of history." During his lifetime, Stefan Zweig’s (1881-1942) works were immensely popular and widely translated. In the decades after his death, he was largely forgotten in the English-speaking world. Recent years, however, have witnessed a resurgence of interest in this singular author, and Pushkin Press has been at the forefront of this movement. The World of Yesterday, Zweig’s memoir, was completed shortly before his suicide. It charts the history of Europe from nineteenth-century splendour, decadence and complacency, through the devastation of the First World War, to the resultant brutality and depravity of the Nazi regime. The World of Yesterday is a heartfelt tribute to an age of humanity and enlightenment that Zweig feared was lost for ever. An incomparable record of a lost era, this is also essential reading for those who have already fallen in love with Zweig’s fiction.


Earlier English translations
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After over a quarter-century of relative neglect in the Anglophone world, there has been a remarkable revival of scholarly interest in Zweig, as can be measured by the many articles that have of late appeared in such flagship venues as the Journal of Austrian Studies (formerly Journal of Austrian Literature) and by the publication of two recent book-length studies. The first of these, Birger Vanwesenbeeck and Mark Gelber’s edited volume Stefan Zweig and World Literature (Camden, 2014), brings together twelve essays on Zweig by researchers from around the world, including some that were originally read at the International Zweig Symposium at the State University of New York at Fredonia in 2009. In addition, Johanna Hoefle’s 2017 monograph China’s Stefan Zweig: The Dynamics of Cross-Cultural Reception (Hawaii University Press, 2017) offers the first scholarly account of Zweig’s reception in China, incidentally also the locale of a 2012 international conference devoted to Zweig. Taken together these new scholarly studies in English, supplemented with a comparable wealth of new Zweig studies in German, offer a global perspective on his works as opposed to the narrow European context through which he has been approached by an earlier generation of scholars.
--Birger Vanwesenbeeck, Feb. 2021

The twenty-first century has seen a renewed surge of cultural and critical interest in the works of the Austrian-Jewish author Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), who was among the most-read and -acclaimed authors worldwide in the 1920s and 1930s but after 1945 fell into critical disfavor and relative obscurity. The resurgence in interest in Zweig and his works is attested to by, among other things, new English translations and editions of his works; a Brazilian motion picture and a best-selling French novel about his final days; and a renewed debate surrounding the literary quality of his work in the London Review of Books. This global return to Zweig calls for a critical reassessment of his legacy and works, which the current collection of essays provides by approaching them from a global perspective as opposed to the narrow European focus through which they have been traditionally approached. Together, the introduction and twelve essays engage the totality of Zweig's published and unpublished works from his drama and his fiction to his letters and his biographies, and from his literary and art criticism to his autobiography.

Hoefle China's Stefan Zweig cover artArnhilt Johanna Hoefle, China's Stefan Zweig: The Dynamics of Cross-Cultural Reception. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2017.

During his lifetime Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig was among the most widely read German-language writers in the world. Always controversial, he fell into critical disfavor as writers and critics in a devastated postwar Europe attacked the poor literary quality of his works and excoriated his apolitical fiction as naïve Habsburg nostalgia. Yet in other parts of the world, Zweig’s works have enjoyed continued admiration and popularity, even canonical status. This book unveils the extraordinary success of Zweig’s novellas in China, where he has been read in an entirely different way. As Hoefle makes clear, Zweig’s works have never been passively received in China. Intermediaries have actively selected, interpreted, and translated his works for very different purposes. The present work not only re-conceptualizes our understanding of cross-cultural reception and its underlying dynamics, but proposes a serious re-evaluation of one of the most successful yet misunderstood European writers of the twentieth century. This book, with its wealth of hitherto unexplored Chinese-language sources, sheds light on the Stefan Zweig conundrum through the lens of his Chinese reception to reveal surprising, and long overlooked, literary dimensions of his works.

Dove Journey cover artRichard Dove, Journey of No Return: Five German-Speaking Literary Exiles in Britain, 1933-1945. London: Libris, 2000.

Among the 70,000 refugees from Nazi Germany who had entered Britain by 1939 were some of the leading literary personalities of the Weimar era. This book tells the stories of five emigre writers, two Austrian, three German - the Austrian and internationally known novelist Stefan Zweig, the leading Berlin theatre critic and essyist Alfred Kerr, the writer and poet Max Herrmann-Neisse, the radical, pacifist journalist Karl Otten, and the Austrian novelist and literary parodist Robert Neumann. All were banned from publishing in Germany from which they fled for their lives. Only Zweig was already known in Britain. Using unpublished diaries, memoirs, letters and British government records, the author follows the difficult, often dramatic and tragic lives of these men and their families in their efforts to establish themselves in British society.

Spitzer Lives Between cover artLeo Spitzer, Lives in Between: The Experience of Marginality in a Century of Emancipation. New York: Hill & Wang, 1999.

This remarkable work, first published ten years ago, is a model of what multicultural, multidisciplinary scholarship should be. In a virtuoso study of three widely different yet compellingly similar human stories that begin in the late nineteenth century and end in the mid-twentieth, Leo Spitzer considers what he calls the "predicament of marginality" at a time when mainstream bourgeois culture proclaimed the virtue of assimilation; and he boldly addresses the social and moral anguish faced by subordinate peoples trying to adjust to dominant societies. Each of the three families spawned prominent figures: the best-selling author Stefan Zweig, the engineer and abolitionist Andre Reboucas, and the mayor of Freetown, Cornelius May. Yet each suffered terribly, and Spitzer offers a brilliant analysis of the historical, sociological, and psychological bases of their experiences.

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Although Zweig is hardly the prototype of a writer’s writer, there is a growing body of publications that takes his life and works as a starting point for creative fiction and non-fiction. Noteworthy among these are Laurent Seksik’s 2010 bestselling novel Les Derniers Jours de Stefan Zweig (published by Pushkin Press as The Last Days), a fictionalized account of Zweig’s final months that was also subsequently adapted for the stage in Paris and turned into a graphic novel; George Prochnik’s 2014 monograph The Impossible Exile (winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Biography) which oscillates between Zweig’s final years in exile and Prochnik’s own family’s flight from Nazi-occupied Austria to the United States; and, finally, Volker Weidermann’s 2016 Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, and the Summer before the Dark, which focuses on the stay of these two writers (and longtime friends) in the Belgian port city in the summer of 1936, a topic also explored in a 2001 monograph by the Flemish journalist Mark Schaevers. Zweig’s often highly fictionalized biographies of such historical figures of Marie Antoinette and Erasmus also continue to move readers, as does his memoir now available in English in a new translation by Bell. What The World of Yesterday lacks in personal digression it makes up for by its meticulous depiction of a bygone era and the many lives (including the young James Joyce and William Butler Yeats) he touched. More than a half-century onwards Zweig’s “reminiscences of a European” stand as a historical document detailing both the era’s high artistic hopes and its subsequent descent into political madness. Among the thousands of letters written by Zweig perhaps none are more haunting than those he wrote during his final years in exile, when geopolitical circumstances forced him to abandon his native German and to write to loved ones in (imperfect) English. Such is the case with the final letter sent to his first wife Friderike, written just hours before he and his second wife, Lotte, committed suicide; as well as with the letters sent to his in-laws, now compiled in the volume Stefan and Lotte’s South American Letters, edited by Oliver Marshall and Darién J. Davis.
--Birger Vanwesenbeeck, Feb. 2021
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It is estimated that Zweig’s works and life have inspired no less than forty films by directors in Europe as well as in Asia and the Americas, making this “most translated author of the world” of his day also one of the most globally screen-adapted ones. Wes Anderson’s 2014 Oscar-winning feature film Grand Budapest Hotel, said to be “inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig,” is therefore but the latest in a long gallery of Zweig-adapted films that includes such classic feature films as Max Ophüls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman (1947) and Andrew Birkin’s The Burning Secret (1988) as well as Maria Schrader’s recent biopic Farewell to Europe (2016), which tells the story of Zweig’s final months. Many of Zweig’s better-known novellas such as “Amok,” “Fear,” and “Letter from an Unknown Woman” have been adapted for the screen more than once. Although there is a growing body of scholarship on some adaptations there exists as of yet no scholarly study that encompasses the totality of the film adaptations inspired by Zweig’s works and life. An incomplete overview of Zweig-inspired film adaptations may be found in the “Films / Plays / Operas” section of Randolph Klawiter’s virtual Stefan Zweig Bibliography.
--Birger Vanwesenbeeck, Feb. 2021
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As Zweig scholar Mark Gelber observes, in Stefan Zweig, Judentum, und Zionismus, Zweig belongs to that group of writers whose unhappy posthumous fate it is to have his papers and materials scattered over four continents. Major collections with Zweig materials include the Stefan Zweig Collection at the State University of New York at Fredonia (which contains the bulk of his correspondence); the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem (where, among others, the typescript of his memoir The World of Yesterday can be consulted); the British Library (which contains what remains of the author’s autograph collection), the Casa Stefan Zweig in Petrópolis, Brazil; and the Literature Archive Salzburg (which possesses the majority of his manuscripts). This diasporic reality of Zweig’s literary estate is one reason why the recent launch, in June 2018, of Stefan Zweig Digital, a collaboration of the Literature Archive Salzburg, the National Library of Israel, and Fredonia’s Reed Library that makes available online high-resolution scans of select materials from their respective collections is cause for celebration.
--Birger Vanwesenbeeck, Feb. 2021