Friday, June 20, 2014

The Impossible Exile

There is a new biography of Stefan Zweig, who appears to have projected the issues of his own generation on to Marie-Antoinette. From The Economist:
Zweig was raised in the glamour of fin-de-siècle Vienna and became part of the cultural ferment that produced Gustav Mahler and Gustav Klimt. But behind the Jugendstil façade, Zweig’s Vienna was also the place where another young man eight years his junior was rejected from the Academy of Fine Arts and began to ponder the programme of racist terror that he would inflict on continental Europe a generation later.

Partly as a result of Hitler’s campaigns in the wake of the Great Depression, by the mid-1930s the cosmopolitan Europe that Zweig had known—in the coffee houses of Vienna, the salons of Paris and the cabarets of Berlin—had shrunk into a draughtboard of warring nation-states. Zweig, the consummate European who had once been at home everywhere, suddenly found himself safe nowhere. As a pacifist, Jewish intellectual, his books were burned in Berlin in 1933, and, like millions of others, he was driven into an exile that took him to London, New York and, finally, Brazil, where he committed suicide in February 1942. He died not so much a man without a country as a man without a world. (Read more.)

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