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The World of Yesterday: An Autobiography Paperback – 1 Jun 1964
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"The autobiography of the internationally famous biographer and dramatist is a chronicle of three ages: the golden days of Vienna that ended with Word War I; that war and its aftermath; and the Hitler years. The three ages do come to life in Zweig's book."-Publishers Weekly Publishers Weekly "The very success with which this book evokes both the beauty of the past and the fatality of its passing is what gives it tragic effectiveness. It is not so much a memoir of a life as it is the memento of an age, and the author seems, in his own phrase, to be the narrator at a illustrated lecture. The illustrations are provided by time, but his choice is brilliant and the narration is evocative."-The New Republic The New Republic "When I opened it, I immediately felt that rare thrill one experiences when meeting a great book."-Newsday.com Newsday.com
About the Author
Stefan Zweig was born in 1881 in Vienna, a member of 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 enjoyed literary fame. His stories and novellas were collected in 1934. In the same year, with the rise of Nazism, he briefly moved to London, taking British citizenship. After a short period in New York, he settled in Brazil where in 1942 he and his wife were found dead in bed in an apparent double suicide.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
A paragraph in the early part of the book condensates how these innovations in art were only the forerunners of general change: “The truly great experience of our youthful years was the realisation that something new in art was on the way — something more impassioned, difficult and alluring than the art that had satisfied our parents and the world around us. But fascinated as we were by this one aspect of life, we did not notice that these aesthetic changes were only the forerunners of the much more far-reaching changes that were to shake and finally destroy the world of our fathers, the world of security.”
A keen traveller around Europe from a young age, Zweig enjoyed the advantage of witnessing the developments that led Europe onto its first world war, and then the second, from the perspectives of different nations and also through the eyes of some of the actors who had a part to play in the entire drama. Zweig seemed able to somehow miraculously position himself in the right places at the right time to witness history making itself, and through his eyes we become witnesses on the ground too. And in the end disturbing questions are suggested that invite the reader to continue investigating the period with a keener eye for analysis.
This book is, moreover, not just a historical account, but a lesson on spiritual survival among the general moral decay that gave rise to fascism and nazism. This is one of the books everyone should read in their lifetimes, to be better informed and to become better people.
Stefan Zweig is one of the most underestimated writers of recent times.His 'Burning Secret' is a wonderful novella.
There are many portraits of other authors, musicians and artists in this book. Zweig suggests that European Jewry saw their support of the arts as a way in which they could make their mark and find a niche for themselves – other avenues, like the army, being virtually barred to them. Luckily, it was an area he adored and he spent much of his time collecting memorabilia from those he admired. He writes of the unrest leading up to WWI and recalls how the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was greeted without distress, as he was generally unpopular. Zweig is always utterly honest in his writing, admitting, “there is nothing heroic in my nature,” and that he had a perfectly natural desire to evade dangerous situations. That said, he procured a post in the library at the War Archives, where he wrote movingly of his desire for a united Europe. He always resisted war and hatred and found Austria a different place after the war, with no Kaiser, financial chaos and raging inflation.
He also writes about his travels; to Paris, Berlin, London, India, America, Italy and a fascinating account of his visit to Russia. When Zweig asked his Russian publisher why he had not fled on the outbreak of the revolution, the Russian admitted that he had not believed the situation would last. Along with an anonymous note advising him not to take all he heard and saw at face value, Zweig was much more likely to question when fascism began to rise in Europe, suggesting that people used self deception because of a reluctance to abandon their accustomed life. Still, it made him more aware of the problems ahead. Despite being financially secure and imagining his life was settled, he found he was standing on very unstable ground.
Although the decade after the war was enjoyable for Stefan Zweig, as the 1930’s began, life became more difficult. By 1934, when his friends began to avoid him and he suffered the indignity of having his house searched, Zweig left for London, where he stayed for some years. Although he returned to Austria in 1937, he found nobody was prepared to listen to his warnings and it is obvious that, during this time, he felt terrible despair. In his fifties, he found himself homeless, stateless and with the possibility of becoming an enemy alien, if England went to war with Germany.
Despite much of Zweig’s musings being both moving and, at times, deeply saddened by events in his beloved Austria, this is by no means a depressing book. It is filled with anecdotes of literary and artistic life, of travel and his delight of discovery and friendship. At all times, Zweig is humane, intelligent and understanding company. If you have any interest in Europe, especially around the time of the first world war, this will present you with a vibrant and enticing portrait of a lost world. It is obvious that it’s loss saddened Zweig and that he was unable to come to terms with life as an exile – sadly committing suicide in Brazil in 1942. His death was a tragic loss to literature and it is wonderful that his books are now being translated into English. According to Zweig, his books never received much success in England, but that was surely our loss and it is wonderful that his work is now being rediscovered.
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period in history he lived in is very illuminating, providing a first hand perspective of what we've learned in history books.Read more
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