Beware of Pity (New York Review Books Classics)
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Wes Anderson on Stefan Zweig: "I had never heard of Zweig...when I just more or less by chance bought a copy of Beware of Pity. I loved this first book. I also read the The Post-Office Girl. The Grand Budapest Hotel has elements that were sort of stolen from both these books. Two characters in our story are vaguely meant to represent Zweig himself — our “Author” character, played by Tom Wilkinson, and the theoretically fictionalised version of himself, played by Jude Law. But, in fact, M. Gustave, the main character who is played by Ralph Fiennes, is modelled significantly on Zweig as well."
"Stefan Zweig was a dark and unorthodox artist; it's good to have him back."--Salman Rushdie
The great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was a master anatomist of the deceitful heart, and Beware of Pity, the only novel he published during his lifetime, uncovers the seed of selfishness within even the finest of feelings.
Hofmiller, an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at the edge of the empire, is invited to a party at the home of a rich local landowner, a world away from the dreary routine of the barracks. The surroundings are glamorous, wine flows freely, and the exhilarated young Hofmiller asks his host's lovely daughter for a dance, only to discover that sickness has left her painfully crippled. It is a minor blunder that will destroy his life, as pity and guilt gradually implicate him in a well-meaning but tragically wrongheaded plot to restore the unhappy invalid to health.
only torture then has been the realization of how hopelessly I have fallen under your spell. ‘But now it has happened. And now, beloved, that I can no longer deny and dissimulate my feelings for you, do not be cruel to me, I implore you. Even the most wretched, the most pitiable creature has her pride, and I could not bear it if you were to despise me because I could not keep my heart in check. I do not expect you to return my love — no, by God, who is to heal and save me, I have not the
went on, grew, if anything, more vehement, breaking forth again and again, like a gush of blood, like a hot agony of vomiting, in spasm after spasm. If the music behind the screen were to stop even for a moment, the sound of the sobs would be bound to reach the ears of the dancers. I stood there aghast, looking an utter fool. What — what on earth had happened? Helplessly I looked on as the two old ladies endeavoured to calm the sobbing girl, who now, in an access of shame, had buried her head on
psychologists of love (Stendhal, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Turgenev) never went further than this. The scene combines their moral knowledge with a kind of neurotic, subdermal excitement reminiscent of Schnitzler, a friend of Zweig’s and another legatee of Freud. Nothing in the book is more striking than its sustained, morbid tension: the nervous laughter, the drumming fingers, the moments of happiness that convert in an instant to fury and grief, with the cutlery suddenly thrown onto the plates. Like
when the old lady had drunk more brandy or vodka than was good for her — a habit she had brought with her from the Ukraine — the poor young woman, it is said on the best authority, had even to put up with blows. In all the luxury resorts of Europe, in Nice and Cannes, in Aix-les-Bains and Montreux, everyone knew the bloated old woman with the enamelled pug-face and the dyed hair who, in a raucous voice, without caring who was listening, blustered like a sergeant-major at the waiters and grimaced
you simply can’t make a success of it. You have to be born to it, and even then it’s one long, everlasting struggle.’ ‘Ah, yes,’ she said with a sigh. He could tell that she was remembering something horrible. ‘People are terrible where money’s concerned. Terrible. I never knew that before.’ People? What did people matter to Kanitz? What did he care whether they were good or bad? He must rent the estate, and that as quickly and advantageously as possible. He listened and nodded politely, and