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Burning Secret (Pushkin Collection) [Paperback]

Stefan Zweig , Anthea Bell (translator)
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 10.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

28 Mar 2008 Pushkin Collection

Burning Secret (Brennendes Geheimnis) is a darkly compelling coming-of-age story—a tale of seduction, jealousy and betrayal from the master of the novella, Stefan Zweig

A suave baron takes a fancy to twelve-year-old Edgar s mother, while the three are holidaying in an Austrian mountain resort. His initial advances rejected, the baron befriends Edgar in order to get closer to the woman he desires. The initially unsuspecting child soon senses something is amiss, but has no idea of the burning secret that is driving the affair, and that will soon change his life for ever.

Breathtaking ... the final sentence is unlike anything I have ever read before; and transforms not only the book, but, in a way, the reader as well. '
— Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Zweig is the most adult of writers; civilised, urbane, but never jaded or cynical; a realist who none the less believed in the possibility—the necessity—of empathy.'
The Independent

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was born in Vienna, into a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. He studied in Berlin and Vienna and was first known as a poet and translator, then as a biographer. Zweig travelled widely, living in Salzburg between the wars, and was an international bestseller with a string of hugely popular novellas including Letter from an Unknown Woman, Amok and Fear.

In 1934, with the rise of Nazism, he moved to London, where he wrote his only novel Beware of Pity. He later moved on to Bath, taking British citizenship after the outbreak of the Second World War. With the fall of France in 1940 Zweig left Britain for New York, before settling in Brazil, where in 1942 he and his wife were found dead in an apparent double suicide.

Much of his work is available from Pushkin Press.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 118 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press; New edition (28 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1901285855
  • ISBN-13: 978-1901285857
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.2 x 16.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was an Austrian writer who, at the height of his fame in the 1920s and 30s, was one of the most famous authors in the world. Zweig was born into a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family in Vienna, where he attended school and university before continuing his studies on Berlin. A devotee of Hugo von Hoffmanstahl, he had published his first book of poetry by the age of 19. After taking a pacifist stance during the First World War he travelled widely and became an international bestseller with a string of hugely popular novellas including Letter from an Unknown Woman, Amok and Fear. He also developed friendships with great writers, thinkers and artists of the day, including Romain Rolland, Rainer Maria Rilke, Arturo Toscanini and, perhaps most importantly, Sigmund Freud, whose philosophy had a great influence on Zweig's work.

In 1934, with the rise of Nazism, he moved to London. There he began proceedings for the divorce of his first wife Frederika, whom he had left for his secretary Lotte Altmann, a young German-Jewish refugee. In London he also wrote his only novel - his most famous and arguably greatest work, Beware of Pity - before moving to Bath, where, with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, he and Lotte took British citizenship. With the German occupation of France in 1940, Zweig, a committed pacifist and advocate of European integration, was devastated. "Europe is finished, our world destroyed," he wrote. Zweig and Lotte married and left Europe for New York, before finally settling in Petrópolis, Brazil, where in 1942 the couple were found dead in an apparent double suicide.

Product Description

Review

Zweig is the most adult of writers; civilised, urbane, but never jaded or cynical; a realist who none the less believed in the possibility - the necessity - of empathy. --The Independent

He was capable of making the reader live other people's deepest experience - which is a moral education in itself. My advice is that you should go out at once and buy his books.
--The Sunday Telegraph

He was capable of making the reader live other people's deepest experience - which is a moral education in itself. My advice is that you should go out at once and buy his books. --The Sunday Telegraph

Reviving his reputation as a major writer of the 20th century. --The Independent

About the Author

Breathtaking ... the final sentence is unlike anything I have ever read before; and transforms not only the book, but, in a way, the reader as well. '
— Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

Zweig is the most adult of writers; civilised, urbane, but never jaded or cynical; a realist who none the less believed in the possibility>—the necessity>—of empathy..'
The Independent

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was born in Vienna, into a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. He studied in Berlin and Vienna and was first known as a poet and translator, then as a biographer. Zweig travelled widely, living in Salzburg between the wars, and was an international bestseller with a string of hugely popular novellas including Letter from an Unknown Woman, Amok and Fear.

In 1934, with the rise of Nazism, he moved to London, where he wrote his only novel Beware of Pity. He later moved on to Bath, taking British citizenship after the outbreak of the Second World War. With the fall of France in 1940 Zweig left Britain for New York, before settling in Brazil, where in 1942 he and his wife were found dead in an apparent double suicide.

Much of his work is available from Pushkin Press.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novella by a great and subtle story-teller 14 Oct 2008
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
We must be grateful to the Pushkin Press for publishing a series of novellas by the wonderful Stefan Zweig, even if the cover price for these little gems of not much more than a hundred pages is a bit steep. But then, in extenuation, this and some of the other volumes have been newly and brilliantly translated by Anthea Bell.

We are in Zweig country. The scenery is wonderfully conveyed in the opening pages. The story is set in the eroticized atmosphere at the end of the Habsburg Empire. There are three characters: a suave baron, on holiday at a hotel, who is an accomplished, cold and determined seducer; an elegant woman who is his more than half-willing prey; and her lonely twelve-year-old son Edgar. The baron first opens his campaign by befriending the boy. Edgar responds passionately to the baron's apparent interest in him, but then he discovers, first with bewilderment and then with rage, that he is in fact de trop. We have to accept that the sheltered Edgar is more innocent than a twelve-year old boy would be today. He guesses that the adults are keeping something from him, but he cannot work out what that secret might be. But he takes his revenge by making sure that he would continue to be de trop, since this was obviously embarrassing and inhibiting them both.

I must not reveal the rest of the story; but it is tense and moving, and Edgar veers back and forth between dependent childhood and the first frightening steps of independence.

The thoughts of all three characters are described with the amplitude and subtlety that is characteristic of this very great writer.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another rediscovery from Pushkin 6 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback
A few months ago I read Joseph Roth's The Radetzky March, an Austrian classic, which unfortunately plodded more than marched for me. Given its acknowledged masterpiece status, I am obviously out of step. There is more than one reason for this, but the main one is that as I read I kept wishing that Stefan Zweig had written it. Why? Because Zweig writes so vividly about his characters' dilemmas that the reader feels the pain. Roth holds his readers at a further distance and the experience isn't as enjoyable, as roller-coastery, if you will.

So the release of a new Zweig by Pushkin Press is a highly-anticipated event for me. This year's treat, the publication of the 1913 novella, Burning Secret. It is the story of a threesome: a 12-year old boy, his mother and an unscrupulous sexual predator. The drama is flagmarked in the very first chapter when the Baron first beholds the mother.

"The hunter had scented his prey."

She, however, is resistant to the Baron charms but her lonely sickly 12-year old son is not. Neither is the Baron above seducing (in a figurative way) the child to get to his intended target. It is a painful coming-of-age for the boy, who progresses from trusting innocence to deceitful spitefulness in the course of a few days. The emotional arc of the mother is no less profound. Her starting point:

"She was at that crucial age when a woman begins to regret having stayed faithful to a husband she never really loved, when the glowing sunset colours of her beauty offer her one last, urgent choice between maternal and feminine love."

Each chapter is written by an omniscient narrator using either the Baron's or Edgar's point-of-view. This results in an intense emotional experience.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small masterpiece 28 Oct 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stefan Zweig has recently been "rediscovered", or perhaps what we mean is "reprinted"? Thank God for that. On this story alone, he rates as one of the great writers of the 20th Century.
Here he gets into the brain of a 12-year-old who is just discovering adult life. He is also discovering that his mother is a sensual female with adulterous leanings. It is wonderfully written and unputdownable. It will make you cry and laugh. And it will re-awaken your delight in clear, clean, wonderfully expressive language and an author who is a master at telling a story and revealing emotions. Don't read this review, read the book, and move on to his other books. He is a master, perhaps a genius.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect short story 14 Jun 2014
By SuzyB
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a perfect short story. The author grabs you from page one. He sets out the plot, characters and the setting. And you are hooked!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novella by a great and subtle story teller 20 Feb 2009
By Ralph Blumenau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
We must be grateful to the Pushkin Press for publishing a series of novellas by the wonderful Stefan Zweig, and this and some of the other volumes have been newly and brilliantly translated by Anthea Bell.

We are in Zweig country. The scenery is wonderfully conveyed in the opening pages. The story is set in the eroticized atmosphere at the end of the Habsburg Empire. There are three characters: a suave baron, on holiday at a hotel, who is an accomplished, cold and determined seducer; an elegant woman who is his more than half-willing prey; and her lonely twelve-year-old son Edgar. The baron first opens his campaign by befriending the boy. Edgar responds passionately to the baron's apparent interest in him, but then he discovers, first with bewilderment and then with rage, that he is in fact de trop. We have to accept that the sheltered Edgar is more innocent than a twelve-year old boy would be today. He guesses that the adults are keeping something from him, but he cannot work out what that secret might be. But he takes his revenge by making sure that he would continue to be de trop, since this was obviously embarrassing and inhibiting them both.

I must not reveal the rest of the story; but it is tense and moving, and Edgar veers back and forth between dependent childhood and the first frightening steps of independence.

The thoughts of all three characters are described with the amplitude and subtlety that is characteristic of this very great writer.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one for the romantics.. 22 May 2012
By Irfan Ali - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The title of the novel is suggestive enough to justify it being a Mills and Boon publication (in fact, Simon and Schuster has published a similar title "Burning Secrets", but with a far more revealing cover and greater number of burning secrets, I am sure). But this novel comes as close to a taking a cold shower, as is possible. The novel captures the feeling of dejection, anger and confusion of a 12 year old on being used and then discarded by an alpha male in pursuit of his mother. A milder version of this scenario is experienced by almost every married couple when the pre-teenager decides not to fall asleep on a fragrant full moon summer's night by the seaside. The book, however, shows how well the Austrian upper society was integrated before the second world war, for the alpha male is a lower rank Austrian baron and the lady Jewish; this being just a part of the story without have attention drawn to it. Also, the novel depicts the emotions of all actors well, though overly verbose at times- the game mentality and single-minded pursuit of prey by the baron, the sense of boredom and excitement of illicit relationship at start of middle age of the mother, the anger, confusion and behavior of the jilted youth. Maturity is finally reached not by learning the secrets of the grownups. How it is reached, is the burning secret.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What revolting people! Such fun! 14 Nov 2010
By Richard Derus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Book Report: Wet, drippy little Edgar, his bored, would-be glam mama Mathilde, and the louche horndog Count Otto meet in an Austrian mountain resort. Otto takes a fancy to Mathilde, since she's a visibly bored Jewess of a certain age. He decides he'll lay siege to her virtue via befriending little larva Edgar, who mistakes his overtures for real friendship because it's never occurred to him that adults lie, cheat, and steal in pursuit of sex. After revolting Count Otto thinks he's about to achieve the leg-over, he drops Edgar, and his troubles begin. Hell hath no fury, apparently, like a barely pubescent boy disappointed in love. What this nasty little child dreams up to do to the perfidious, selfish adults is really quite impressive! In the end, his life is completely changed, and one rather trembles at the path his future will take...*cue Horst Wessel*....

My Review: Peopled with deeply dislikable characters, and set in an anonymous vacation destination with no sense of permanence, it's a little hard to invest in the dramatis personae for a goodly stretch of time. I don't think I ever really did all the way. I don't care at all about anyone here, in that if each of them had fallen off an Alp I would've pursed my lips, tutted, and gone about my day.

But the story is a very involving one, paradoxically, because the nature of love comes in for a pretty thorough and fairly damning examination, one that would have seemed very risky for Jewish Zweig to conduct so openly in 1913, the year it was published. The love of mother for son, of son for mother, and mother for sex is explicitly explored. The love of any one of these people for anything is revealed in all its unglory as deeply selfish and terribly destructive, as my cynical heart believes love always to be. (Want to screw up a friendship? Fall in love with your friend! *bang* goes any hope of remaining on good terms...but I digress.)

A movie version of this novella, starring Faye Dunaway, appeared about 25 years ago. It wasn't very good. I am amazed at that, since Zweig's writing is so clear and simple that I'd think it was a shoo-in to have excellent dialogue come out of the characters' mouths. C'est la vie, as conventionally Francophile Mathilde would say...doubtless in a heavy Viennese accent.

So, okay, the point is: Recommended to Zweigers, cynics, and those with pubescent boys at home. Romantics, leave on shelf. "Life is Beautiful" and "La Traviata" fans, turn your backs upon. Multi-eyed, part-alien cyborgs, read and learn...this is what humans are *really* like, and it's not a terribly pretty picture.
4.0 out of 5 stars Child becomes a teen 28 April 2014
By Gwynn Pealer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This story was about what went on in the mind of a 13 year old boy in the early part of the 20th Century who is used by a stranger to come on to his mother. The child watches as the adults first use him and then ignore him to carry out their tryst. The story also eavesdrops on the thinking of the adults. The boy is confused by what is happening with the adults and angered when he is left out or treated like a child.
After a minimally violent scene with the adults, he runs away and pays more attention to other adults as he makes his way to his grandparents home. He finds he is capable of negotiating an adult world and that adults work at a variety of jobs. He realizes that he is no longer seeing the world as a child. At his grandparents' there is a reunion and he is reintegrated into the love of family including his mother. She has forsaken her fling with the stranger to keep the family intact but she is relying on him to keep secret her attempt to stray. He knows he has some power over her but at the moment he knows, if he keeps the secret, he can continue to be a child and ease into a wider understanding of life.
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't put it down 19 April 2014
By Rochester Richie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's been a long time since I had a book I simply could not put down, staying up way past my bedtime to finish it. Riveting, seemingly well translated Stefan Zweig novella. I saw the film adaptation of this story back in the 1980s with Klaus Maria Brandauer. It's good, but the original story is great.
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