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Zweig, Stefan

Entry updated 11 September 2023. Tagged: Author, Theatre.

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(1881-1942) Austrian biographer, journalist, playwright and author whose interbellum reputation is now unfairly faded; his Suicide (along with his wife's), which occurred when they both had begun to think World War Two would be won by the Allies, has been treated in hindsight as a sign of misplaced despair rather than – as clearly demonstrated in Messages from a Lost World: Europe on the Brink (coll trans from various sources Will Stone 2016) – prescience.

Zweig was in no significant sense an sf author; his influence being indirect. At least two of his stage works rewrite dramatic events that originally shaped civilization in the West (see Alternate History) so that they can be understood as allegorical prolepses of the Europe to come. Jeremias: eine Dramatische Dichtung in Neun Bildern (first performed 1918; 1918; trans Eden and Cedar Paul as Jeremiah: A Drama in Nine Scenes 1922) transfigures the Biblical story; Friedenstag: Oper in einem Aufzug von Joseph Gregor ["Peace Day: An Opera in One Act by Joseph Gregor"] (first performed 1938), credited to (and partly written by) Gregor as Zweig being Jewish could not be named, similarly transfigures events ascribed to the period of the Thirty Years' War.

Some of Zweig's short fiction engages distantly with the fantastic, including his last work, Schachnovelle (1942; trans Eden and Cedar Paul in The Royal Game: Amok: Letter from an Unknown Woman omni 1944), whose frame story is set on a liner bound out of Europe towards Buenos Aires, and involves a Chess match between the idiot-savant world champion and a cosmopolitan seemingly uprooted from world events. The Club Story told within the frame, however, reveals him to be a man of culture in whose mind a poisonous obsession with chess has almost irremediably interbred with memories of his recent incarceration by the Nazis now ruling Austria, fomenting an intolerable anxiety about the fate of the world. [JC]

Stefan Samuel Zweig

born Vienna, Austro-Hungary: 28 November 1881

died Petrópolis, near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 22 February 1942

works (highly selected)



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