4 July 2009

Stefan Zweig, Journey into the Past, 1976

Zweig and his wife both committed suicide in Brazil in 1942, probably in despair at what was happening in Europe as Zweig was a lifelong pacifist. Being his long-lost final novella this was first published in Germany in 1976; he certainly took his time writing it, beginning in 1924 and probably finishing sometime in the 1930s. It concerns the reunion of two lovers whose early illicit relationship was interrupted by the First World War, their exploration of whether memories of their relationship actually match the reality, and their questioning of if they can pick up where they left off. The reader will, inevitably, notice a specific and fundamental detail that is missing, but this absence actually gives an indication of how Zweig was a cut above the rest and a re-read for more subtext is worthwhile. This is a microcosmic story of one man’s heart; on one level it could be easily dismissed as a minor love story but there’s far more going on here than is visible on the surface. This is something brief, but masterly.  PY


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