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@Read Epub ⚢ The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European Î 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 inIt is read with sympathy and understanding by David Horovitch 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 confine 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 addsubstance 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 I have been struggling to write this review I have a draft that keeps growing, withquotes,of my analysis,words but as I write , I worry that I am getting further away from Stefan Zweig, further away from this beautiful, sad, angry, insightful, anguished text.So am I scrapping all those words, and starting over Stefan Zweig 1881 1942 wrote The World of Yesterday in desperate times The unconventional memoir is a cri de coeur from Zweig, who stood for everything Hitler I have been struggling to write this review I have a draft that keeps growing, withquotes,of my analysis,words but as I write , I worry that I am getting further away from Stefan Zweig, further away from this beautiful, sad, angry, insightful, anguished text.So am I scrapping all those words, and starting over Stefan Zweig 1881 1942 wrote The World of Yesterday in desperate times The unconventional memoir is a cri de coeur from Zweig, who stood for everything Hitler most hated and feared Born to a wealthy Jewish family, well educated, speaker of many languages, famous both in his native Austria and throughout the West from the many translations of his novels, stories, and other writings, Zweig believed passionately in the vital need for an international community of artists He had escaped from his home in Austria, driven out by the oppression and hatred of the Nazis Shaken, exhausted, anguished, he wrote the book not to discuss his two marriages, or to focus on his personal relationships and feelings Instead, Zweig wrote a memoir of a place, Austria, and a time gone by In every word, he is grieving for his lost homeland, and evenfor an unrealized ideal Written from the perspective of a man who grew up in the waning days of the Austro Hungarian Empire, who lost his innocence in World War I, and believed for a brief time that Europeans had learned their lesson and had put an end to future wars, The World of Yesterday is a lament, a work honoring a dead and buried past, and a suicide note One day after his second wife mailed the manuscript to Zweig s publisher, the two took poison and died in each other s arms in Brazil, too exhausted to wait for better days that they feared wold never come.Stefan Zweig and his brother Alfred in Vienna, c 1900Stefan Zweig was once one of the best known writers in the German language His works were widely translated and popular across Europe Zweig was prolific, engaged in the arts every way he could be He wrote not only short stories and novels, but also works of non fiction including immense, carefully researched biographies of Balzac and Mary Stuart , plays, and libretti He also worked as a translator, which may have helped him to foster relationships with writers from across Europe His travels provided him with rich experiences in his younger years, and enabled hm to forge lasting friendships with many writers and artists, In the end, though, he loved having a home in Austria He was brought up in the rich cultural life of Vienna before World War As an adolescent he was caught up in a flurry of adoration for Hoffmansthal, and he later forged a friendship with Rilke He watched Rodin work in his studio, and he admired and respected Freud His early writings were published by Theodor Herzl, among others Zweig was a lifelong pacifist, who was apolitical at heart His orientation to the world around him was influenced by his commitment to the ideal of Europe as a cultural community, where artists from many countries would support and draw inspiration from each other, create a shared international culture, and guard diligently against intolerance and war He valued creativity and freedom of expression He was notoriously hard on himself and modest, despite his eventual fame He spent his money building up a valuable library and collecting autographs and manuscripts that captured moments of creativity from Europe s greatest artists This library was later destroyed by the Nazis He traveled, he wrote, he corresponded with friends, he was inspired and driven to do his best by their example Bookplate from Stefan Zweig s libraryZweig was shaken to his core by the onset of World War I, which broke apart his safe, insulated world He managed to continue to correspond with some friends in France and Italy, but he was worried about the censors A trip to Switzerland to meet with other artists committed to pacifism was complicated by the ubiquity of government spies, alert to the possibility of treason After the war was over, Zweig worried about losing old friendships until he was greeted affectionately by old friends during a trip to Italy Zweig describes his friendships with writers such as Romain Rolland and Rilke He opens a window into his world, full of books, ideas, music, ideals, friends, debates, art of all kinds Stefan Zweig and his first wife, Friderike Maria von Winternitz n e Burger married 1920, divorced 1938 but remained in contactZweig also provides chilling descriptions of the rise of Hitler and the Nazis Zweig s memoir is particularly insightful in conveying the experiences of a renowned writer, at the top of his popularity, when he became a focus for the brutal hatred of the Nazis Any readers concerned about the consequences of censorship for a free society should read Zweig s account of this period Stefan Zweig and his second wife, Lotte Altmann his secretary married 1939, committed suicide together in Brazil in 1942 The World of Yesterday is a devastating book, but it is also illuminating Zweig s perspective, looking back to his earlier years in the last decades of peace in Europe, transported me back to a vibrant Vienna, where culture was valued above all else He also warns about the ways in which complacency helped to lead to World War I, as Europeans were living their lives with blind trust in their governments His insights on the cultural conditions that lead to the rise to totalitarianism extend to his discussion of the rise of Hitler Throughout, Zweig provides details and anecdotes from his experiences to add color to hisanalytical passages He writes with passion, warmth, modesty, anger, and anguish Stefan ZweigToday, we live in a world where, in spite of globalization, strife, hatred, greed, and ignorance are barriers to the kind of internationalism that Zweig dreamed of When faced with economic downturns, some nations look to cuts in funding for the arts as a partial solution Parents and special interest groups sometimes call for the censorship of books, music, films, and art that pose threats to their professed values I fear that Zweig would not be surprised by the lasting relevance of The World of Yesterday in the early 21st century Reading it is one way to continue his quest, to turn back hatred and intolerance, one line at a time I want to give Zweig the last word by quoting a passage in which he is reflecting on the day when Germany invaded Poland, when Zweig was living in exile in EnglandFor was aabsurd situation imaginable than for a man in a strange land to be compulsorily aligned solely on the ground of a faded birth certificate with a Germany that had long ago expelled him because his race and ideas branded him as anti German and to which, as an Austrian, he had never belonged By a stroke of a pen the meaning of a whole life had been transformed into a paradox I wrote, I still thought in the German language, but my every thought and wish belonged to the countries which stood in arms for the freedom of the world Every other loyalty, all that was past and gone, was torn and destroyed and I knew that after this war everything would have to take a fresh start For my most cherished aim to which I had devoted all the power of my conviction for forty years, the peaceful union of Europe, had been defiled What I had fearedthan my own death, the war of all against all, now had become unleashed for the second time And one who had toiled heart and soul all his life for human and spiritual unity found himself, in this hour which like no other demanded inviolable unity, thanks to this precipitate singling out, superfluous and alone as never before in his life I knew what war meant, and as I looked at the well filled, tidy shops I had an abrupt vision of those of 1918, cleared out and empty, seemingly staring at one with wide open eyes As in a waking dream I saw the long queues of careworn women before the food shops, the mothers in mourning, the wounded, the cripples, the whole nightmare of another day returned spectrally in the shining noonday light I recalled our old soldiers, weary and in rags, how they had come back from the battlefield, my beating heart felt the whole past war in the one that was beginning today and which still hid its terror from our eyes Again I was aware that the past was done for, work achieved was in ruins, Europe, our home, to which we had dedicated ourselves had suffered a destruction that would extend far beyond our life Something new, a new world began, but how many hells, how many purgatories had to be crossed before it could be reached 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 onetime Just to make sure, okay Onetime 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 ju 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 onetime Just to make sure, okay Onetime 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 beglowing 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 seemclear 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 lotindicative 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 lotlike 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 usabout those messier moments in betweenoften There was a lot of honesty here, a lot of joy and passion and delight and sorrow I just wish he feltcomfortable complicating things for us and showingthings 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 onceWhich, 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 Utterly brilliant Devastating I feel turned inside out after finishing Stefan Zweig s memoir of a world that was in the process of self destruction when he decided to commit suicide in exile and put the last words on paper How incredibly amazing his life was, surrounded by the writers, musicians and artists of his time The reflections on his friendships with Verhaeren or Romain Rolland read like a collection of exquisite anecdotes of the sum total of cultural life in the 20th century How Utterly brilliant Devastating I feel turned inside out after finishing Stefan Zweig s memoir of a world that was in the process of self destruction when he decided to commit suicide in exile and put the last words on paper How incredibly amazing his life was, surrounded by the writers, musicians and artists of his time The reflections on his friendships with Verhaeren or Romain Rolland read like a collection of exquisite anecdotes of the sum total of cultural life in the 20th century How exciting to be part of his intellectual development in the Habsburg Monarchy, his coming of age in the shining light of Vienna s transformation to a modern city under the impression of writers like Hugo von Hofmannsthal or Arthur Schnitzler How remarkable to register the resilience with which Stefan Zweig adjusted to the growing antisemitism and the anti liberalism, and how painful to see one human right after the other disappear until THAT name pops up for the first time in the last third of the memoir, that name that changed the perception of human evil forever It is interesting to compare the life choices of Adolf Hitler and Stefan Zweig, both growing up at almost the same time in Austria, forming under the impression of the First World War and finally committing suicide for opposite reasons in their late 50s or early 60s, one in exile without seeing hope that the other will finally be overcome, the other three years later when realising he actually was defeated The tragedy of political evil is the backdrop of this memoir, and it is told without knowing, as the reader does, that end of the terror is soon to come.Despite thethan depressing reality, Stefan Zweig manages to tell the story of European unity, art and culture, and he does so with the mastery of a true poet Each event is carefully described and given prominence among so many others, each encounter with a cultural personality is full of dignity and love In a way, this account gives hope The same environment that created Hitler also created Stefan Zweig