The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig is a combined study on human behavior and Austrian life. Each story examines behavior, with great detail within the boundaries of Austria’s social standards and mores.
The stories were not only period pieces, but social statements regarding ethics/morals, war and pacifism, and the living standards of the elite versus the poor. Most of the characters are depressed, stuck in a rote of life, and give off an aura of tragic lives lived. The stories are filled with melancholy and slices of drama. Drama played a major role in Austrian lives, and survival depended on roles played.
Pacifism is conveyed in the story entitled “Compulsion“. It involves an artist who receives orders to go to the Austrian consulate. His back and forth indecisiveness reflects those who do not believe in war, yet also feel they should do their duty to their country. Should he go, should he stay, should he go?
Religion factors into many of the stories, from Judaism to Catholicism. The individuals, family units and their beliefs are illuminated through Zweig’s writing.
The details within the stories are masterful and filled with perfection. The reader is exposed to the psychology of living in Europe during tragic and uncertain times. This psychology includes the poverty stricken individual’s struggle to survive in a world that looks upon them as less than desirable. Their very psyche is affected, in every aspect.
The bourgeois also strive to fit in. They feel somewhat above those who live in dire straights, but feel less confident than the well off elitists. The elitists don’t necessarily fare better within their financial circumstances.
Each story is a page-turner in its own right. Some of the characters have life-altering events, along with physical limitations, mindsets and philosophies, ideals, fears and struggles. The stories are not connected. Yet they share a time and place of prewar and war, and the situations that result due to war’s impact on citizens and their lives.
The stories cover the years from 1900 through 1935, with two additional stories having been unpublished until 1951 and 1987, respectively. This reader could see the author’s disintegration from society through the written prose. Zweig’s life was filled with disillusion, antiwar sentiment and a depressive state. When one has researched Zweig’s life, so much is apparent in his writing. His work conveys much of his own thoughts, opinions and emotions, vividly. At least this reader thought so.
The film, The Grand Budapest Hotel is based on some of Zweig’s stories and novels. I can definitely see illuminations of that throughout this book. I have read two of his novels, but had not read this particular collection. The Post Office Girl is one of the novels, and the film is also based, in part, on this novel, according to the director, Wes Anderson.
Stefan Zweig is brilliant and a masterful story teller. The reader is transported to Austrian life during the first three decades of the 20th century. The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig is a valuable collection of works within one book. The historical value is priceless, and I found the book to be a masterpiece.