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Unveiling the Enigmatic Legacy of Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig, the enigmatic Austrian writer, continues to captivate readers worldwide with his profound ideas and unique literary style. From the golden era of Vienna to his exile in Brazil, Zweig’s life was a tapestry of rich experiences and unwavering passion for art and life.

His poignant works have garnered acclaim not only in Europe but across the globe, resonating with audiences from diverse backgrounds. Zweig’s tragic decision to end his life, as revealed in his farewell letter, sparked deep reflections on his existence and the enduring power of art in the face of reality.

Exploring the depths of human nature and the absurdities of life, Zweig’s writings serve as a beacon of introspection and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. His legacy, marked by both triumphs and tragedies, sheds light on the profound impact of art and literature on shaping our perceptions of the world.

As we delve into the life and works of Stefan Zweig, we uncover a complex tapestry of emotions, ideas, and philosophical musings that continue to inspire and provoke thought. Let us journey through the realms of creativity and contemplation, guided by the enduring legacy of this literary luminary.

On February 22, 1942, Zweig left his suicide note to the world.

 In his suicide note, Zweig said:

“With my spiritual home, Europe, destroyed, I had no place to rebuild my life from scratch.”

Later, he and his wife committed suicide by swallowing sedatives in their apartment in Brazil, bidding farewell to his world.

 At this time, Zweig was already a world-famous writer.

After his death, the Brazilian government held a grand funeral for him, and even the president attended his funeral.

The famous writer Thomas Mann was a friend of Zweig, but he expressed anger at the way Zweig died and felt that Zweig’s suicide was a cowardly act, because if he hated this chaotic world, he should Fight to the end instead of giving up the world to those he hates.

 He said:

“He should not have awarded the Nazis this victory, and he never should have done so if he had hated and despised them even more.”

 However, Zweig could no longer support his long-term exile.

 Three weeks before his suicide, he had just completed his autobiography “The World of Yesterday”.

01

There are two most important days in life, one is the day you are born, and the other is the day you understand why you are alive.

The day he was born, he had physical life. The day he understood why he was alive, he had his own soul.

 Zweig was born in Vienna on November 28, 1881.

At that time, the world was changing from old to new, but for the people living in Vienna, it was a peaceful age.

Even Zweig felt that it was a peaceful golden age. Peace, tranquility, and making money were the clear and specific goals of most people. There was a standard for what could and could not be done.

Zweig was even more lucky. He was born in a wealthy Jewish family, and his father was a well-known rich man.

Although he is rich, he is not arrogant or extravagant. Instead, he is self-restrained and courteous. He plays the piano excellently, writes elegant calligraphy, and knows many foreign languages.

But the biggest influence on Zweig from his father was that he refused any form of honor or position, and never pursued or accepted any title in his life.

In my father’s opinion, the pride hidden in the heart is more important than what is revealed.

A person’s true pride is the pride in his heart without resorting to any external form.

 Years later, Zweig, like his father, refused all formal honors.

 He never received a medal or a title.

 This is what his father left in his blood.

 Zweig’s mother was also born in an upper-class society and had a profound education.

 In short, he “kind of fell into the wrong trap.”

Zweig, who was born with a golden key in his mouth, received the best education of that era from an early age.

 Reincarnation is an art, but unfortunately you cannot choose it by yourself.

 However, it’s not just where one comes from that determines where one ends up.

02

In Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century, the king had no political ambitions and the country had no military operations.

 The economy is prosperous and everyone is keen on pursuing culture.

Even the most ordinary Viennese citizens read newspapers and pay attention to cultural news every day.

Especially in the upper class society, it is simply unimaginable if there is a person who does not have a sense of art and does not respect etiquette. If he does not seem to love art, he is not a real Viennese.

Unlike today, when vulgarity abounds, and what people talk about is not art, but money and excitement.

Zweig grew up in such an environment. He was sent to the best schools and received the best education.

After all, after many people become rich, although they no longer worry about money, they begin to worry about culture. Every family wants to cultivate their children into cultural elites.

Many people hold the concept that only by entering college can they have real value.

 Only if you get a doctorate can you be considered promising.

With this standard, school education becomes boring and boring, and everything runs like a machine.

For five years in primary school and eight years in middle school, all teachers work hard for students to get good grades, and all students work hard to get good grades.

Everything was in order, day after day, similar to today’s exam-oriented education. Scores are the standard for measuring educational results.

In order to allow students to concentrate on their studies, the windows of the classrooms are carefully covered with curtains in the summer, lest the floating clouds in the sky outside affect the hardworking students inside.

 Zweig hated this kind of education.

 He said:

This kind of barracks-like life that lacks humanity and eliminates individuality undoubtedly brings us great pain.

Many years later, Zweig understood that such education was designed to eliminate individuality, because only people who have no individuality and only know how to follow tradition are best managed.

 Fortunately, some people’s personalities cannot be erased.

 Just like there is a saying in “The Shawshank Redemption”:

 Some birds cannot be contained; their wings are too full.

03

 Although the education method is annoying, the knowledge will not be annoying.

 Since childhood, Zweig loved reading.

 In addition to reading, he also liked drama, especially Goethe’s drama.

 As a result, he often peeked at extracurricular books, skipped classes and went to the theater to watch plays.

 When he was 10 years old, Zweig entered middle school.

 In the first four years, Zweig learned all the knowledge of the middle school level.

It should be said that before, he could still study the courses with a calm and curious mood, but later, he felt more and more dull and boring in school life.

 When he gets bored, the rebellion begins.

He is eager to explore the world outside school, where there are theaters, museums, bookstores, and universities.

 A desire for knowledge and art scratched his heart like a kitten.

Therefore, once there was a performance, Zweig began to skip class and go to the performance with his classmates, even if he could only buy standing tickets.

During class, he had a poem by Rilke tucked under the cover of his Latin grammar book.

 The exercise books used to calculate math problems became reading excerpts.

So, the teacher read the lecture notes that he had read countless times as if he had completed his task on the podium. Under the podium, Zweig was looking at Nietzsche and Strindberg.

Every afternoon, they blended into the ranks of college students and walked into the university to attend lectures.

They sneaked into the symphony orchestra rehearsal space and went to used bookstores to browse ancient books. Every day there were new books, and they made sure to read them as soon as possible.

 At that time, reading became Zweig’s most important thing.

I read all the books I could get my hands on without being picky at all, and after I finished reading, I would swap them with my classmates.

They go to a coffee shop together, order a cup of coffee, and then browse important literary magazines and illustrated magazines in the world.

These teenage children are not comparing themselves to their parents, not the clothes and shoes on their bodies, but the knowledge in their hearts.

For several years, they spent time on the road discussing books, paintings, music and philosophy.

 Other than that, do nothing.

Life is very honest. Whatever you do, your life will reflect it truthfully.

On this road of life, a person can deceive others, but he can never deceive himself.

04

 Balzac said:

“I always thought celebrities were like gods. They didn’t talk, walk or eat like ordinary people.”

 Zweig, a middle school student, thought so naively.

 The more he reads, the fuller his heart becomes.

When his heart was full to a certain extent, he picked up a pen and turned the poetry overflowing from his heart into words.

In 1897, at the age of 16, Zweig began to publish his poems in Vienna’s “Society” magazine.

 He was too young and too poetic at that time.

He liked poetry, especially Whitman’s poetry, and he yearned for Whitman’s freedom and romance.

But in school, during the day, their time is occupied by courses and important daily meals, and they don’t have that much time to study at all.

 How to do it?

It doesn’t matter, just sleep a little less, light the lamp and boil the oil, read until midnight, and have to get up on time at seven in the morning to go to class.

 I sleep four to five hours a day and go to class every day bleary-eyed.

Every morning, Zweig hurried to school as if he was busy fighting a war. Sometimes he didn’t even wash his face, chewing slices of bread with butter as he walked.

 It’s like this every day, every month, and every year.

Lack of sleep and excessive reading made his face look sallow and looked extremely unhealthy.

At school, he looked slovenly, neither paying attention to clothes nor caring about grooming.

 He spent all his pocket money on theaters, concerts, and books.

 Therefore, I don’t even have time to make friends with my girlfriend.

 In eight years of middle school, Zweig completed important growth and transformation in his life.

In 1900, Zweig barely passed the final exam, and the boring middle school door finally closed behind him.

In front of him, another door opened, that is, the door of the University of Vienna.

 In life, keep moving forward and keep becoming yourself.

 But sometimes, it takes a lot of effort to stay firm in your direction.

05

 In 1900, Zweig became a university student in Vienna.

 However, what major should I study?

For many people, this is a problem, but for Zweig, it is not a problem, or even a choice at all.

 why?

Because no major would arouse his interest, his heart had already been dedicated to literature.

In his opinion, good books are better than good universities. A person can become an excellent philosopher, historian, etc. even if he has not attended university or even middle school.

He feels that college is good for ordinary people, but for some people with creative abilities, college is useless and can even hinder people’s creativity.

Especially at the University of Vienna, following tradition, no subject taught by him was attractive to him.

 Therefore, his criteria for choosing a major are very strange:

It’s not which major attracts him the most, but which major gives him the least headache and gives him the most freedom.

 In the end, Zweig chose philosophy.

Because of this major, it was easiest to get passed the exam, so he had to squeeze out as much time as possible to serve his interests and hobbies.

 Therefore, Zweig, a college student, only went to school and did not attend classes.

 Other students were in class, and he was reading his favorite book.

 Other students were in class, and he was writing his own poems.

 While other students were in class, he went to the theater.

 Any time, free arrangement.

 He conducted a strict selection of past poems and compiled them into a collection.

 Then, he felt brave and summoned up the courage to send the poem manuscript to the publishing house.

 Soon, he got an affirmative answer.

 When he got the proofed manuscript, his heart was pounding and he was very excited.

 After getting the sample book, he looked at it tirelessly.

Soon, the book was published, and like a child, he ran to the bookstore to see if his book was there and whether it was placed in the center of the bookstore or in the corner.

 Later, he paid attention to comments from all parties.

In 1901, Zweig published his first collection of poems, “Silver String Collection”.

 This collection of poems was praised by the poet Rilke.

The road of life needs to be walked slowly, and people need to get closer to themselves little by little.

06

 Since middle school, Zweig has been publishing articles in magazines.

 But he has never dared to submit articles to those truly influential newspapers.

 The most influential and authoritative newspaper in Vienna is the Neue Freie Zeitung.

In the eyes of Zweig’s fathers, being able to publish one’s own words in the Neue Freie Zeitung was a particularly promising thing.

When he was in college, Zweig finally plucked up the courage and submitted one of his articles to the New Free Press.

 The editor quickly told him that the manuscript was overdue.

After the article was published, his hobbies received full support from his family.

 All this is because his words were published in the “New Free Press”.

Since then, he published articles in the Neue Freie Zeitung almost every week, making him a celebrity in Vienna.

 Wherever he goes, as long as he is recognized, there will be a lot of discussion.

 Some people would be happy to become a celebrity, but Zweig was troubled.

 He hates these things.

 So, one morning, he told his parents that he was going to university in Berlin.

 Of course parents won’t object.

Zweig went to Berlin and went to the school twice every semester, once to register for lectures and the second time to have the academic staff sign and stamp the lecture certificate.

 Other than that, I haven’t been to school.

 He said:

What I came to Berlin for was neither lectures nor professors, but valuable and perfect freedom.

 Indeed, in Berlin he was like a bird flying out of its cage.

His feet began to touch the soil and the earth. He walked out of the upper class society and saw a broader and more real society.

 Wider contact with reality did not increase Zweig’s creative desire.

In fact, he had no desire to create at all, because he felt that what he wrote was not real enough, and he even felt that he could not write at all.

So, he went to translate the works of those masters, hoping to train himself through translation.

 He needs to observe more, learn more, and then create.

In 1904, Zweig spent several months reading through the university textbooks, and finally passed the exam and received a doctorate in philosophy.

 From then on, external life was completely free.

Many years later, when Zweig stood on the edge of his life and recalled this past event, he said:

All the years up to now have been a struggle to achieve the same inner freedom, but this struggle has become increasingly difficult in our time.

07

 free.

 Beautiful freedom.

The reason why it is desirable is not only because you can do what you want to do, but also because you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

 After graduating from college, Zweig went to Paris.

 Going out is not only to find the scenery, but also to find yourself.

He visited famous writers and poets, talked about poetry with Rilke, and talked about life with Yeats.

 In fact, he was talking about himself.

However, when you go out, you still have to come back. Although wandering is pleasant, you always need a stable place and a place to come back to.

After leaving high school, Zweig accumulated a lot of books, paintings and souvenirs, but he could not pack these things into a suitcase and drag them around the world.

So, in order to give his collection a home, he rented a house in Vienna.

He decorated the house very simply, with Blake’s sketches on the walls and a small poem written by Goethe himself.

 Zweig kept writing.

 He is either writing or accumulating energy for writing.

 After work, he collects manuscripts and manuscripts of writers.

He wrote more and more words, but in his opinion, none of these works satisfied him.

 His collection also grew, many of which pleased him.

He began to try drama creation, but instead of praising heroes, he always focused on the losers.

There are theaters willing to perform his plays, but the fate of his plays is really unfortunate.

 The first time it was stranded was because the lead actor died unexpectedly.

 The second time it was stranded was because the lead actor died unexpectedly.

 The third time, same thing.

 Zweig felt that this was a curse.

A friend encouraged him to go out and see. The world is a big place. Only when you see it can you understand.

Zweig left Europe, walked into Asia, and walked into America. This was his last peaceful and happy time before World War I.

 He can travel freely and write in peace and contentment.

08

In 1914, the First World War broke out, and the haze hidden in the darkness finally enveloped the entire world.

 Some people hate war, while others advocate war.

Vienna, which was originally peaceful and keen on pursuing culture, has become crazy.

 The whole world went crazy.

 Zweig said:

 Ignorance and ignorance rule their brains.

 Socrates tells us that ignorance is an evil.

Zweig was one of those people who hated war. He felt that war was a crime. However, his thoughts caused him to be ostracized countless times.

His friends began to distance themselves from this dangerous man, and Zweig was no longer welcome in their gatherings.

 In this regard, Zweig could only remain silent.

Later, the scolding became louder and louder. In order to avoid the crazy Viennese crowd, Zweig also fled and hid in a remote suburb.

In the suburbs, Zweig began his own rebellion. He published an article publicly – “To Friends from Foreign Countries”.

As soon as this article came out, Zweig became the target of public criticism. Many people scolded him, saying that he was a collaborator and colluded with the enemy.

Because of this article, he began a correspondence with Romain Rolland that lasted for more than 20 years.

Romain Rolland was a staunch anti-war activist, and he and Hesse and others had been committed to the anti-war cause.

In order to oppose the war, Romain Rolland became a street rat, and even his work “Johan Christophe” was listed as a banned book.

 The whole world is asleep, and those who are awake are the most ridiculous.

 Romain Rolland is, Hesse is, Zweig is too.

 He has seen the cruelty of war and the fragility of life in the face of war.

 A gray-haired priest said:

I am a person who is about to be buried, and I have seen many things, but I never thought that humans could commit such crimes.

At this time, many people who advocated war were still touting their narrow heroism. Zweig understood that if he remained indifferent and took no action in the face of such lies, then he would be a sinner.

 He resists absurdity through words.

 But his resistance made him isolated.

But his resistance did not stop, but continued. In 1916, he wrote the anti-war drama “Jeremiah”, which was a great success.

 Zweig also bought himself a house and stayed away from the big cities.

In 1918, the First World War ended, but the world fell into a kind of post-war madness. Psychotropic drugs were rampant in the world, values ​​were indifferent, and even culture was in chaos.

 Zweig was disappointed with the world:

Often in our struggle for freedom of thought, we continue to suffer defeat because we love our own freedom and independence too much.

 He decided to live in seclusion and concentrate on creation.

09

 After the war, the world slowly returned to normal.

Zweig’s writing has also entered a new stage. He dislikes his earlier works very much.

He wanted to write some new works, so “Emotional Confusion”, “The Biography of Three Masters”, “Fighting the Devil”, “Letter from a Strange Woman”…

 One outstanding text after another was created by him.

 His reputation grew, and the world became peaceful for a few years.

Zweig was not isolated from the world. He also socialized with friends and traveled.

From 1924 to 1933, Europe was peaceful, and everyone felt that the war was far behind.

 Even Zweig said, many years later:

 Once again we acted like fools and thought that the war was over.

 Zweig traveled, wrote, and read.

His reputation was at its peak. He used the money he earned to buy collections and generously purchased the notebooks of famous people, such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Goethe, Balzac and others.

 He is not only a world-famous writer, but also a wealthy collector.

On his fiftieth birthday, congratulatory emails and telegrams poured in from all over the world, but Zweig was thinking:

 What does this day mean?

Looking back on the past, he has already gone through fifty years. In the future, should he be brave and diligent? Or retreat bravely?

He returned to his heart and heard a voice in his heart saying that he hoped something would happen to drag him out of the comfortable environment full of security and start over.

However, his wish soon came true in a way that he had never expected.

In 1933, Hitler came to power, and an era of chaos once again arrived.

Zweig was forced to leave his hometown, and after this farewell, he never came back.

 Zweig’s exile career began.

Initially, he rarely felt like an exile because Austria continued to exist and he was still an Austrian citizen.

Later, when Austria fell, he was expelled by the Nazis and was no longer considered a member of Austria. He became a person without a country.

War continued to affect the world. In 1939, the Second World War broke out, and Zweig was exiled. He also started his second marriage.

 After the marriage, Zweig became a British citizen and went to Brazil.

 In Brazil, he began to write “The World of Yesterday”.

 During the later years of his exile, he did not publish a single book.

During his eight years of exile, he suffered not only physical displacement, but also inner pain and torture.

 Zweig was exhausted physically and mentally.

After completing “The World of Yesterday”, he and his wife committed suicide by taking sedatives in their apartment on February 22, 1942.

 He once used art to resist absurdity, but Zweig’s friend Romain Rolland said:

“Art can satisfy each of us, but it does nothing for reality.”

 But does art really help?

No, it is the call of the soul to the soul, the hope of beauty, and the dawn of finding the truth. Real art will always shine into the darkness of people’s hearts in some way and make people rethink the light.

10

 In “The World of Yesterday”, Zweig said:

 After many years, I finally understood,

 It is the continuous escalation and intensification of torture, persecution and loneliness,

 It will not destroy a person.

 This is true of all the great things in life.

 When a person gains this kind of understanding,

 Never through other people’s experiences,

 And you can only get it from your own destiny.

Zweig abandoned the world, but he felt sorry for the world, so he still left rich spiritual wealth to the world.

Today, as long as we read his words again, we can live again in his words.

 When we complain about our fate, he will tell us:

 She was too young then,

 Not knowing all the gifts given by fate,

 The price has already been secretly marked.

 When we waver, he says:

 There’s only one thing that makes people tired –

 That’s the swing.

 And every thing you do will liberate your body and mind,

 Even if things go wrong,

 It’s better than doing nothing.

 When we lie to ourselves, he said:

 A person can escape anything,

 Only he can’t escape himself.

 When we are afraid of losing, he said:

 Once anyone discovers himself,

 He has nothing to lose in this world.

 Whoever understands people in himself,

 That’s why I understand everyone.

 When we come to terms with the world, he would say:

 As long as a person gives in once, he will keep giving in.

 One compromise will inevitably lead to a series of new compromises.

 This is Zweig.

He used his life to tell us that the best way a person can live is to live close to his own soul.

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