Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig (November 28, 1881 in Vienna – February 22, 1942 in Petrópolis) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer.


Zweig was born in Vienna, which was then capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Heir of a wealthy Jewish family, Zweig studied philosophy at the University of Vienna, where he got his Ph.D in 1904, with a thesis on “The Philosophy of Hippolyte Taine”. Zweig was a prominent writer in the 1920s and 1930s, befriending Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud. The rise of Nazism forced him into exile, in 1934, first in England, then in the United States, and finally in Brazil, where the writer and his wife committed suicide in 1942. The Zweigs were found dead of a barbiturate overdose in their house in the city of Petrópolis, holding hands.

Despite being one of the most popular German-speaking writers in the 1920s and 1930s, Zweig also underwent criticism from some of his contemporaries, like Thomas Mann, who considered him a more commercial author. In 2010, on the occasion of the republication in England of many of his books, a critical review by Michael Hofmann, published in the London Review of Books, has caused anger among some readers and literary critics:

“He’s the Pepsi of Austrian writing”,


As well as knowing him best, a man’s contemporaries have every reason for getting him wrong, but the fact remains that there is an unusual consensus here – Mann, Musil, Brecht, Hesse, Canetti, Hofmannsthal, Kraus – to the effect that Stefan Zweig was a purveyor ofTrivialliteratur and, save in commercial terms, an utterly negligible figure. From the distance of Britain or America now one erroneously supposes something more like the opposite to be the case: that here is someone who is among the best his country and language and period have to offer, and who comes with the good opinion and endorsement of his peers. Partly it’s the distinction – far more rigidly observed in Germany than in the English-speaking world – between serious and popular (e and u in German parlance, Ernst and Unterhaltung), but there’s more to it than that.


I have seen Zweig referred to in German as ‘an exemplary subrealist’ and ‘the notorious writer of bestsellers’, which is more like it. The late Viennese critic Hilde Spiel considered his fiction, which has taken the lead in the present reinflation of his reputation, to be ‘closest in spirit to Schnitzler’s – and not a patch on it’. That seems fair to me.” 

(Michael Hofmann, “Vermicular Dither”. In: London Review of Books, Vol. 32 No. 2 · January, 28th, 2010, p. 9-12)


The end-credits for Wes Anderson’s 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel (IMDb) say that the film was inspired in part by Zweig’s novels. Anderson said that he had “stolen” from Zweig’s novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl in writing the film, and it features actors Tom Wilkinson as The Author, a character based loosely on Zweig, and Jude Law as his younger, idealised self seen in flashbacks. Anderson also said that the film’s protagonist, the concierge Gustave H., played by Ralph Fiennes, was based on Zweig. The book The Society of the Crossed Keys (Pushkin Press, 2014, 272 p.) displays a selection of Zweig’s works, in which the film was inspired.



  • Forgotten Dreams, 1900 (Original title: Vergessene Träume)
  • Spring in the Prater, 1900 (Original title: Praterfrühling)
  • A Loser, 1901 (Original title: Ein Verbummelter)
  • In the Snow, 1901 (Original title: Im Schnee)
  • Two Lonely Souls, 1901 (Original title: Zwei Einsame)
  • The Miracles of Life, 1903 (Original title: Die Wunder des Lebens)
  • The Love of Erika Ewald, 1904 (Original title: Die Liebe der Erika Ewald)
  • The Star Over the Forest, 1904 (Original title: Der Stern über dem Walde)
  • The Fowler Snared, 1906 (Original title: Sommernovellette)
  • The Governess, 1907 (Original title: Die Governante)
  • Scarlet Fever, 1908 (Original title: Scharlach)
  • Twilight, 1910 (Original title: Geschichte eines Unterganges)
  • A Story Told In Twilight, 1911 (Original title: Geschichte in der Dämmerung)
  • Burning Secret, 1913 (Original title: Brennendes Geheimnis)
  • Fear, 1920 (Original title: Angst)
  • Compulsion, 1920 (Original title: Der Zwang)
  • The Eyes of My Brother, Forever, 1922 (Original title: Die Augen des ewigen Bruders)
  • Fantastic Night, 1922 (Original title: Phantastische Nacht)
  • Letter from an Unknown Woman, 1922 (Original title: Brief einer Unbekannten)
  • Moonbeam Alley, 1922 (Original title: Die Mondscheingasse)
  • Amok, 1922 (Original title: Amok) – novella, initially published with several others in Amok. Novellen einer Leidenschaft
  • The Invisible Collection, 1925 (Original title: Die unsichtbare Sammlung)
  • Downfall of the Heart, 1927 (Original title: Untergang eines Herzens)
  • The Invisible Collection see Collected Stories below, (Original title: Die Unsichtbare Sammlung, first published in book form in ‘Insel-Almanach auf das Jahr 1927’)
  • The Refugee, 1927 (Original title: Der Flüchtling. Episode vom Genfer See).
  • Confusion of Feelings or Confusion: The Private Papers of Privy Councillor R. Von D, 1927 (Original title: Verwirrung der Gefühle) – novella initially published in the volumeVerwirrung der Gefühle: Drei Novellen
  • Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman, 1927 (Original title: Vierundzwanzig Stunden aus dem Leben einer Frau) – novella initially published in the volume Verwirrung der Gefühle: Drei Novellen
  • Buchmendel, 1929 (Original title: Buchmendel)
  • Short stories, 1930 (Original title: Kleine Chronik. Vier Erzählungen) – includes Buchmendel
  • Did He Do It?, published between 1935 and 1940 (Original title: War er es?)
  • Leporella, 1935 (Original title: Leporella)
  • Collected Stories, 1936 (Original title: Gesammelte Erzählungen) – two volumes of short stories:
    1. The Chains (Original title: Die Kette)
    2. Kaleidoscope (Original title: Kaleidoskop). Includes: Casual Knowledge of a Craft, Leporella, Fear, Burning Secret, Summer Novella, The Governess, Buchmendel, The Refugee, The Invisible Collection, Fantastic Night and Moonbeam Alley
  • Incident on Lake Geneva, 1936 (Original title: Episode an Genfer See Revised version of “Der Flüchtung. Episode vom Genfer See” published in 1927)
  • The Buried Candelabrum, 1936
  • Beware of Pity, 1939 (Original title: Ungeduld des Herzens) novel
  • The Royal Game or Chess Story or Chess (Original title: Schachnovelle; Buenos Aires, 1942) – novella written in 1938–41,
  • Journey into the Past, 1976 (Original title: Widerstand der Wirklichkeit)
  • Clarissa, 1981 unfinished novel
  • The Debt Paid Late, 1982 (Original title: Die spät bezahlte Schuld)
  • The Post Office Girl, 1982 (Original title: Rausch der Verwandlung. Roman aus dem Nachlaß; The Intoxication of Metamorphosis)

Biographies and historical texts

  • Emile Verhaeren, 1910
  • Three Masters: Balzac, Dickens, Dostoeffsky, 1920 (Original title: Drei Meister. Balzac – Dickens – Dostojewski. Translated into English by Eden and Cedar Paul and published in 1930 as Three Masters)
  • Romain Rolland. The Man and His Works, 1921 (Original title: Romain Rolland. Der Mann und das Werk)
  • Nietzsche, 1925 (Originally published in the volume titled: Der Kampf mit dem Dämon. Hölderlin – Kleist – Nietzsche)
  • Decisive Moments in History, 1927 (Original title: Sternstunden der Menschheit. Translated into English and published in 1940 as The Tide of Fortune: Twelve Historical Miniatures)
  • Adepts in Self-Portraiture: Casanova, Stendhal, Tolstoy, 1928 (Original title: Drei Dichter ihres Lebens. Casanova – Stendhal – Tolstoi)
  • Joseph Fouché, 1929 (Original title: Joseph Fouché. Bildnis eines politischen Menschen) Now available as an electronic book
  • Mental Healers: Franz Mesmer, Mary Baker Eddy, Sigmund Freud, 1932 (Original title: Die Heilung durch den Geist. Mesmer, Mary Baker-Eddy, Freud) Now available as an electronic book.
  • Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman, 1932 (Original title: Marie Antoinette. Bildnis eines mittleren Charakters) ISBN 4-87187-855-4
  • Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1934 (Original title: Triumph und Tragik des Erasmus von Rotterdam)
  • Maria Stuart ISBN 4-87187-858-9
  • The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, 1936 (Original title: Castellio gegen Calvin oder Ein Gewissen gegen die Gewalt)
  • Conqueror of the Seas: The Story of Magellan, 1938 (Original title: Magellan. Der Mann und seine Tat) ISBN 4-87187-856-2
  • Amerigo, 1942 (Original title: Amerigo. Geschichte eines historischen Irrtums) – written in 1942, published the day before he died ISBN 4-87187-857-0
  • Balzac, 1946 – written, as Richard Friedenthal, describes in a postscript, by Zweig in the Brazilian summer capital of Petrópolis, without access to the files, notebooks, lists, tables, editions and monographs that Zweig accumulated for many years and that he took with him to Bath, but that he left behind when he went to America. Friedenthal wrote that Balzac “was to be his magnum opus, and he had been working at it for ten years. It was to be a summing up of his own experience as an author and of what life had taught him.” Friedenthal claimed that “The book had been finished”, though not every chapter was complete; he used a working copy of the manuscript Zweig left behind him to apply “the finishing touches”, and Friedenthal rewrote the final chapters (Balzac, translated by William and Dorothy Rose [New York: Viking, 1946], pp. 399, 402).


  • Tersites, 1907 (Original title: Tersites)
  • Das Haus am Meer, 1912
  • Jeremiah, 1917 (Original title: Jeremias)


  • The World of Yesterday (Original title: Die Welt von Gestern; Stockholm, 1942) – autobiography
  • Brazil, Land of the Future (Original title: Brasilien. Ein Land der Zukunft; Bermann-Fischer, Stockholm 1941)
  • Journeys (Original title: Auf Reisen; Zurich, 1976); collection of essays


  • Darién J. Davis; Oliver Marshall, eds. (2010). Stefan and Lotte Zweig’s South American Letters: New York, Argentina and Brazil, 1940–42. New York: Continuum.ISBN 1441107126.

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