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The Last Days (B-Format Paperback) Paperback – 29 Aug 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Pushkin Press (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908968915
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908968913
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 267,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A novel of staggering beauty. We see into the inconsolable soul of the great humanist, become a pariah. (Le Nouvel Observateur)

A marvel, which will enchant all lovers of Zweig. (Le Figaro)

This tragedy-Racine transplanted to the twentieth century-is told with talent by Laurent Seksik. (Livres Hebdo)

Laurent Seksik recounts this tragedy with a stunning gentleness. (Le Point)

About the Author

Laurent Seksik trained as a doctor, was a radiologist in a Paris hospital and continues to practise medicine alongside his work as a writer. Before The Last Days (2010) he published Les Mauvaises Pensées (1999, translated into ten languages), La Folle Histoire (2004, awarded the Littré Prize) and several other books, including a biography of Albert Einstein. The Last Days was a bestseller in France and has been translated into ten languages. The novel has been adapted for the stage into a very successful play, and a film version is currently in production. Seksik lives and works in Paris


Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel has a very special atmosphere.

At the beginning, hope is in the air as the Zweigs look forward to their new life in Brazil. Step by step, the hope is mixed with disappointment as upsetting incidents occur. The mood gradually turns darker, despite some happy moments along the way, until the very moving, bleak conclusion.

The pace and timing are immaculately executed as the plot moves forward inexorably to its destination. I can see how this works well as a play.

This is a novel, not a factual account, and I can't be sure what is fact and what is imagined. I have often thought how sad it was that the Zweigs' suicide took place just before the turning point of the war, but this book is very good at showing how events would have looked at the time, without the benefit of hindsight.

My only doubt is that the commentary on world events occasionally sounded slightly as if coming from the 'allied' side of the conflict, (the author is French after all), whereas Zweig's own memoirs seemed to me to be written from a higher level - a less biased, perspective. We should not forget he was Austrian and that German was his mother tongue. This could be my imagination however, and I have not studied the source material to check.

Nonetheless an impressive achievement. Recommended.
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By Hande Z TOP 500 REVIEWER on 5 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
Stefan Zweig wrote in `The World of Yesterday' that `none of us in Germany and in Austria in 1933 and even 1934 thought that a hundredth, a thousandth part of what was to break upon us within a few weeks could be possible.' But Zweig, among his peers, was not only the most well-known writer of his day, but also the most prescient. In spite of the general incredulity, Zweig told his publisher `that the end of my books in Germany was in sight'. Within a year he fled, first to London, then New York, and finally, to Petropolis, in Brazil. His friends who remained in Europe were imprisoned or killed by the Nazis. Many of his intellectual friends such as Joseph Roth and Walter Benjamin committed suicide - a fate he too was to share.

Laurent Seksik's book was written as a fiction, but none of the names had been changed, nor any of the major events in the last six months of Stefan Zweig's life, the months from September 1941 to February 1942 represents a chapter. In these six months, Seksik skilfully shows what might have gone through the mind of the man whose books sold more than 60 million copies in more than 30 languages. Zweig and his second wife, Lotte Altmann, lived in hope that the Nazi nation might soon be vanquished and life as Zweig knew it in the Vienna of old would return. Despair won. Zweig was weighed down emotionally by the fact that he was a member of a race facing increasing persecution; that he was the first to flee and the last to survive - all his friends were killed or had killed themselves; that he was most proficient in German, a tongue he had grown increasingly to hate; that he had given up on his God, and more deeply, that his God had given up on His people.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book about the last months in the lives of Stefan Zweig and his second wife, Lotte Altmann. It is factually based but written as fiction - from a subjective point of view - that gets into the minds of both characters. It is clear, precise and cerebral. It is also unremittingly sad. The only light comes in as negative space - through the reader's sense of the magnitude of the characters mistake - their misjudgment of circumstances and the tragedy of beauty cut short.
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Format: Paperback
'The Last Days' is a moving, concentrated, elegiac account of the events that led up to the suicide of Stefan and Lotte Zweig in Brazil in 1942. It concentrates on the last six months of their lives, in the remote, small villa they moved to, homing in on the many internal pressures that contributed to their fatal act. It's a brave and convincing blend of fact and fiction which, though it can only sketch in and suggest what might have happened, does justice to the seriousness of its subject. Seksik's slim novel goes a long way to answering the questions: why did they decide to kill themselves? What made it so imperative? And how should we regard it?

The narrative is split into six monthly chapters, beginning with the Zweig's arrival in Brazil. Experienced exiles, they had fled the Nazis in Europe - Stefan was more prescient than others in knowing when to get out; having been declared enemy agents in Britain, and having grown tired of New York, they had come to escape the cityand to be out of harm's way. Lotte, too, suffered from severe asthma and needed clean air. Zweig, once rich, now poor, worked hard on his memoirs, on a novel and a book on Balzac, but he felt exhausted and ineffectual; he was depressed that his books had been burned in Austria and Germany and were no longer published in his native tongue. Would anyone read him again, he who had once been the most read author in the world?

Even though they found a kind of peace in that remote place, they could not keep the world out. News of Nazi victories and Allied defeats, of the oppression of the Jews, of the deaths of friends and relatives, came through letters and newspaper, friends and visitors.
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