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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Key to Zweig's Stories, 1 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Fear (Pushkin Collection) (Paperback)
Overarching Zweig's fiction is a fascination with the cumulative costs of deception - how will it affect the individual being deceived, those around (family members), and the figure who is being dishonest? From The Post Office Girl to Burning Secret and Beware of Pity, the mounting emotional price of deception drives Zweig's works. And if it does not end in tragedy, the reader has watched these people as they have been hurt, been hurt deeply.

The central character is these introspective stories is a figure who is inexperienced and lives with narrow horizons. It can be a junior officer (Beware of Pity) a naïve village girl (The Post Office Girl), a pre-pubescent boy (Burning Secret), or in the case of "Fear" a bourgeois woman in her late 20s. Sometimes they deceive, sometimes they are the deceived, the painful outcome will see them mature.

"Fear" is much more than fear of exposure. The threat that Irene Wagner's adulterous affair will be exposed causes her to assess her life. She realises that it has been superficial and unfulfilling. Wagner has no duties or responsibilities, no domestic routine, next to no family life. All is handled by servants, even the care of her children.

Irene Wagner especially reflects on her marriage, and very quickly grasps that she does not have a mature relationship with her husband - he keeps her at a distance emotionally, treating her as a child. In a way he has compartmentalised her (perhaps this was the common experience of bourgeois women in paternalistic Vienna - cf. Joseph Roth's The Radetzky March where the only female character is a mistress, all other women being excluded and confined to another closed social world).

The Wagner couple have never had a deep conversation, Irene Wagner realises, and she doesn't know the nature of her husband's thoughts, his character. She also painfully admits to herself that linked in with this her marriage has been unfulfilling emotionally, intellectually and, it seems sexually - she has not known passion, indeed, this is why she embarked on the affair. Irene tends to blame herself for her troubles, although, as events pan out, I finished the story feeling Irene's husband is a devious and manipulative creep. She is very much the victim of the situation she finds herself manoeuvred into.

This is Stefan Zweig writing at his very best. And be prepared for a shock ending on the very last page: there is a spectacular twist!!!
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Initial post: 25 Mar 2014 13:58:31 GMT
If any review could tempt one to buy this book, this is it!
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Location: Keilor, Australia

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