Zweig, Stefan

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Zweig, Stefan

Stefan Zweig (shtĕf´än tsvīk), 1881–1942, Austrian biographer, poet, and novelist. Born in Vienna of a well-to-do Jewish family, he was part of the humanitarian, pan-European, pacifist, and populist cultural circle that included Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss. Zweig's first works were poetry and a poetic drama, Jeremias (1917, tr. 1929), which expressed his passionately antiwar feelings. During the 1920s and 30s, Zweig was extremely popular, and he was the most widely translated writer in Europe. With the rise of National Socialism, his works were condemned throughout the German-speaking world. He fled into exile in 1934, emigrating first to England, then to New York. In 1941 he and his second wife went to Brazil, where, exiled from the vanished cosmopolitan Europe where he had flourished, they subsquently committed suicide.

Zweig's best-known works of fiction are Ungeduld des Herzens (1938, tr. Beware of Pity, 1939, repr. 2006) and Schachnovelle (1944, tr. The Royal Game, 1944). He also wrote many biographies, which were based on psychological interpretation. The subjects of these include Marie Antoinette, Erasmus, Mary Queen of Scots, Magellan, Balzac, Verlaine, and Freud. Zweig's historical perception is best seen in Sternstunden der Menschheit (1928, tr. The Tide of Fortune, 1940). Long out of fashion and largely out of print, Zweig's work experienced a resurgence of interest in the 21st cent. when several of his books were retranslated and reprinted.

See his autobiography (and his last book, completed 1941 in Brazil), The World of Yesterday (1942; tr. 1943, 2013) and his Collected Stories (tr. 2013); biographies by D. A. Prater (1972), E. Allday (1972), O. Matuschek (2011), and G. Prochnik (2014); V. Weidermann, Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, and the Summer before the Dark (2016).

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