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on 30 September 2017
This is a great classic of writing from over70 years ago. I found myself involved in the story from the first pages and read the whole book in two days.This is the only full length novel Stephen Zwieg wrote and it must be seen has his masterpiece , the translation from German to English must also be praised . I recommend this superb novel to all readers out there ,so go and get a copy and decide for yourself.
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on 14 March 2014
A heart rending story that will linger in your mind for several days. The book poses several questions about our personal life: is our destiny pre-determined at birth? Is there any point in struggling to accumulate wealth or climbing-up the social ladder? Is there such a thing as `poetic justice' or `fate'? Should we feel compassion for the weak and less fortunate as proof of our humanity? Is it true that `No good deed goes unpunished'?

From a woman's point of view the story of the unfortunate Edith seemed unbearably tragic. However the book was written from a male point of view. The first person, Lieutenant Hofmiller, a cavalry officer of the Austrian-Hungarian army on the eve of WWI, appears to be a well-mannered young man displaying much sympathy and compassion for the less fortunate, but is torn between vanity and his conscience. As the translator put it, he is both 'idealistic and irresolute'. He falls prey to the trappings of the rich and famous but detests being considered a 'gold-digger' among his fellow comrades.

On the character of Edith, Zweig used plenty of Freudian psychoanalysis to dissect the psyche of the physically handicapped girl. On one side, her extremely fragile and hyper-sensitive nerves make her hysterical; on the other hand, she displays acute perception of other people while she is wheelchair-bound all day long. The 'hero' Lieutenant Hofmiller' is a healthy young man. Many would agree that it would be perfectly normal for him to feel uncomfortable at the sight of such a sickly young woman. Yet his sense of decency and his politeness got the better of his prejudices. He feels sorry for her and tries his best to be nice but unwillingly becomes an object of her desire. It was expected from the beginning this was going to happen and one could have guessed that it was in the rich old father's scheme to catch a weak and innocent young man to look after his sick daughter. But Hoffmiller was too naïve to recognise this possibility. By the time he finds it out, it is too late. The young woman has become obsessed by him. He wants to scarper but again his fear and guilty conscience get the better of him and stop him running away. He is trapped in a dilemma. The proverb "No good deed goes unpunished" seemed to apply to him. He had somehow invited this situation due to his own good nature.

Another point; Zweig being Jewish himself made some interesting observations of the Jewish character. The old man Kekesfalva married a German woman, converted to Christianity and bought his aristocratic title to elevate his status as a Jewish merchant. But his social climbing is stopped short by double tragedies, first being the early death of his wife, then the accident that crippled his daughter for life. One wonders if Zweig, who wrote this novel in 1938 on the eve of WWII, was sending a subliminal message about the tragic consequences of a Judeo-German marriage with the gathering storm clouds in Europe
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on 11 September 2016
Stefan Zweig always captivates me. It's impossible to not be awestruck and drawn into the whirlpool of emotions on the page. I won't elaborate too much here as other reviews will tell you the crux of the story. But what I will say is that nearly every line sent shivers down my spine. It's like an intense therapy session or a psychedelic experience that leaves you realising that shame, guilt and struggle isn't your fault - just fate screws us over sometimes.

This book and indeed all Zwieg's work is a masterpiece on the human condition.
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on 17 September 2014
Many have already given detail as regards the general plot. This book is an interesting and thought-provoking read. All will have experienced echoes of where pity can lead in their own lives.

We all have a friend (if not more than one) who is in our lives less through loving friendship and more because we cannot find it in our hearts to put them from us, due to our understanding of their lives, their struggles. We have picked them up and are forced to continue to carry them regardless of how tiring or annoying that turns out to be. The protagonist here faces a similar struggle but with more severe consequences.

It is of its time in its portrayal of the disabled (not too pc) but the message of where pity can lead in subsuming the will and in its manipulation are interesting themes and are dealt with well.

In its way the book is an exciting read as you genuinely want to know just how it will all work out in the end. Well worth reading.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 April 2013
Set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire just before the outbreak of the First World War, a story which you might expect to find dated proves very gripping. It is written from the viewpoint of Anton Hofmiller, as he looks back ruefully to the time when, as a young cavalry officer, emotionally undeveloped after spending his adolescence in army training, he was first flattered to be wined, dined and treated with unwonted respect in the house of a wealthy local aristocrat, then moved by the plight of the teenage daughter of the house, paralysed by an unspecified illness.

Although you may guess the general direction of the tale it is remarkable for the depth with which Zweig explores the narrator's complex emotions, and for the vivid evocation of a world about to end - the privileged, snobbish, ritualistic ostrich-like world of the ossified Austro-Hungarian army. He describes with great realism the joys of riding in close formation with one's men, or galloping freely across the countryside, the huge social pressure to conform in this community rife with gossip and banter bordering on bullying. The book reminds me strongly of Roth's "The Radestky March".

If the style sometimes seems anti-semitic, this must be a reflection of the times, since Zweig was himself a Jew. I admit to finding the emotional intensity overwhelming at times, although Zweig has a gift for taking you to the limit of endurance and then introducing a fresh development which releases the tension and shifts you to a contrasting mood - which may in turn become too much. In view of Zweig's suicide during World War 2, a few years after this book was written, one wonders how much it reflects the overwrought emotional rollercoaster of his own thoughts.

I understand why some reviewers feel the plot is too slight for a full length novel, but on balance Zweig "carries it off" as a psychological study and period piece. I could have done without the "frame" device used, apparently quite popular in the early C20, i.e. to commence with another narrator describing how he meets Hofmiller who implausibly recounts the story in great detail.

Recommended for reading on Kindle.
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on 7 July 2007
...no, not the book by Dave Eggers, but this masterpiece by Stefan Zweig. I came upon this by accident, and bought it, intrigued by the story outline and the reviews below. Only very, very rarely does a book have the power to draw me into the lives of the characters, probably because they're usually just that - characters. Not so here. Here we have flesh and blood and all that entails. I'm still amazed at Zweig's story telling. He's the kind of writer who could make a shopping list fascinating. I lived and breathed every single word in this incredibly beautiful book, and as Nigel Rodgers has accurately said below, the tension becomes almost unendurable. I can hardly do justice to it in a few words. Weirdly, I often found myself smiling, not because it's a funny book, far from it, but just through an appreciation of Zweig's supreme mastery of his art. This is one of those books appearing only a few times in your life that wring emotion out of you whether you like it or not. A heart-breaking, unforgettable and life-enriching experience.

Kudos to Pushkin Press for publishing a very handsome new edition. I'd also like to praise the translation, too, by Trevor and Phyllis Blewitt. At no time is there even a hint that you're reading a translation - something that occurred to me only after finishing the book. On the contrary, it seems to me that the elegance of the language and all the magnificent virtues that contribute to Zweig's humanity and genius have been faithfully rendered. The proof is in my twin disappointments; coming to the end, and learning that there are no further full-length novels by Zweig. I'll definitely be reading all his other works, though.
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on 13 January 2016
Excellent book and one we can learn from: compassion is not pity or the other way round. What we often take for kindness is that we ourselves don't want the pain (or trouble) of feeling we have caused someone upset. It is our pain we don't want and pity is this kind of 'love'. Real love is saying the truth in a kindly way, even if short-term the person seems to be in pain, and so the other person can start working on what they too bring to the situation. Pity is 'sticky' but compassion is 'clean', so to speak. This book shows this in sharp relief
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on 26 February 2013
I read this after reading THe Post Office Girl, and I'm glad I did, because if I had read this first, I probably wouldn't have experienced the other.

The writing is first class, that is not in doubt, but the subject matter is so terribly dour, it made me feel rather depressed. A young, callow army officer makes a social gaffe by asking a crippled girl to dance, then as he tries to make up for it, he finds himself being drawn into her world. The title is clever, as pitying the girl ultimately destroys lives (I won't say more than that) Also, the themes of self-pity also come up as well, cleverly, but it is very dry and straight-faced. There is none of the fleeting frivolity of the Post Office Girl, and the characters are not quite as well-formed, but the denouement is still shocking and the sense of place is so vibrant, it leaps off the page.

I was disappointed that I did not like it, but I'm glad that I read it. I think that if The Post Office Girl had been published when it was written, it would have eclipsed Beware Of Pity easily, although as a peice of literary fiction, this one has the edge.
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on 16 February 2015
Probably the most beautifully written novel I have ever read. Zweig renders a different perspective on the psychology of empathy, love and pity and does so with perspicacious sensitivity. Despite the lack of action the story drives forward and draws the reader inward and onward. The translation must be outstanding as at no point does the language stall or hesitate. Having a cursory encounter with Zweig's writing for German A level some 50 years ago, I was drawn back to his work by a great film - Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel - and am glad. I have now purchased three more works by Zweig through Amazon.
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on 15 January 2014
To me this is the best writing by Zweig, and that`s saying a lot from a master of psychology and feelings. I wonder why Zweig isn't on most people's shelves, and yet he was extremely popular when alive. I would recommend to many current best selling authors a course on Zweig and the great Russians, because no one has ever againg written like them. The story in this books is so gripping that you won't be able to put it down. This is, by far, one of my top books in my library, hand in hand with Crime and Punishment. By reading it, almost all the range of human feelings will, at different times, awake inside you. ENJOY IT!!
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