Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig, November 28, 1881 – February 22, 1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most famous writers in the world.

Zweig was born in Vienna, the son of Moritz Zweig (1845–1926), a wealth Jewish textile manufacturer, and Ida Brettauer (1854–1938), from a Jewish banking family. Joseph Brettauer did business for twenty years in Ancona, Italy, where his second daughter Ida was born and grew up, too. Zweig studied philosophy at the University of Vienna and in 1904 earned a doctoral degree with a thesis on “The Philosophy of Hippolyte Taine”. Religion did not play a central role in his education. (…)

At the beginning of World War I, patriotic sentiment was widespread, and extended to many German and Austrian Jews: Zweig, as well as Martin Buber and Hermann Cohen, all showed support. Zweig, although patriotic, refused to pick up a rifle; instead, he served in the Archives of the Ministry of War, and soon acquired a pacifist stand like his friend Romain Rolland, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature 1915. He then moved to Switzerland until the end of the war. Zweig remained a pacifist all his life and advocated the unification of Europe. Like Rolland, he wrote many biographies. His Erasmus of Rotterdam he called a “concealed self-portrayal” in The World of Yesterday.

Zweig married Friderike Maria von Winternitz (born Burger) in 1920; they divorced in 1938. As Friderike Zweig she published a book on her former husband after his death. She later also published a picture book on Zweig. In 1939 Zweig married his secretary Lotte Altmann.

Zweig left Austria in 1934, following Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. He then lived in England (in London first, then from 1939 in Bath). Because of the swift advance of Hitler’s troops into France and all of Western Europe, Zweig and his second wife crossed the Atlantic Ocean and traveled to the United States, where they settled in 1940 in New York City, and traveled. On August 22, 1940, they moved again to Petrópolis, a town in the conurbation of Rio de Janeiro. Feeling more and more depressed by the growth of intolerance, authoritarianism, and Nazism, and feeling hopeless for the future for humanity, Zweig wrote a note about his feelings of desperation. Then, in February 23, 1942, the Zweigs were found dead of a barbiturate overdose in their house in the city of Petrópolis, holding hands. He had been despairing at the future of Europe and its culture. “I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearing a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth”, he wrote.

The Zweigs’ house in Brazil was later turned into a museum and is now known as Casa Stefan Zweig.

Zweig was a prominent writer in the 1920s and 1930s, befriending Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud. He was extremely popular in the United States, South America and Europe, and remains so in continental Europe; however, he was largely ignored by the British public, and his fame in America has since dwindled. Since the 1990s there has been an effort on the part of several publishers (notably Pushkin Press and the New York Review of Books) to get Zweig back into print in English. Plunkett Lake Press Ebooks has begun to publish electronic versions of his non-fiction as well.

Criticism over his oeuvre is severely divided between some English-speaking critics, who despise his literary style as poor, lightweight and superficial, and some of those more attached to the European tradition, who praise his humanism, simplicity and effective style.

Zweig is best known for his novellas (notably The Royal Game, Amok, Letter from an Unknown Woman – filmed in 1948 by Max Ophüls), novels (Beware of Pity, Confusion of Feelings, and the posthumously published The Post Office Girl) and biographies (notably Erasmus of Rotterdam, Conqueror of the Seas: The Story of Magellan, and Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles and also posthumously published, Balzac). At one time his works were published without his consent in English under the pseudonym ‘Stephen Branch’ (a translation of his real name) when anti-German sentiment was running high. His biography of Queen Marie-Antoinette was later adapted for a Hollywood movie, starring the actress Norma Shearer in the title role.

Zweig enjoyed a close association with Richard Strauss, and provided the libretto for Die schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman). (…)

Zweig was a passionate collector of manuscripts. There are important Zweig collections at the British Library and at the State University of New York at Fredonia. (…)

For a list of bibliography see wikipedia

Source:, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, partially shortened by editor

© Prof. Jens Drolshammer,,

Comments (0)