All posts filed under: austria

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig: Around the World in Books

Bereft of an adjective to describe the experience of reading Stefan Zweig’s memoir and manifesto, The World of Yesterday, I looked up the definition of “uncanny”: “strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.” That is the one that fits. Read before November 2016, The World of Yesterday would be intermittently involving, occasionally fascinating, often tedious, at least for this reader. (I found myself in the habit of discovering paragraphs and sentences of startling beauty, amongst gossip, and bragging, and name-dropping, and blather.) Read now, it is terrifying in a particular way. Watching a house burn down is sad. Watching your own house burn down is horrifying. Watching a house that seems to resemble your own, in so many unexpected ways — that is uncanny. Once the most-translated author in Europe, Zweig’s life began in the cradle of the Hapsburg monarchy: “We lived well, we lived with light hearts and minds at ease in old Vienna, and the Germans to the north looked down with some annoyance and scorn at us, their neighbors on the Danube who, …