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Beware of Pity (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – June 20, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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"Beware of Pity, his first venture in longer fiction, is original and powerful work...Zweig has chronicled a hopeless and tragic relationship in a manner that so holds the reader as never to dispirit him, telling a story full of psychological pitfalls that only an experienced writer, and an experienced human being could dare to attempt...Zweig remains, after Beware of Pity, what he seemed to be--in his novelettes and biographies--before he wrote it: a brilliant writer." --The New York Times

"Admired by readers as diverse as Freud, Einstein, Toscanini, Thomas Mann and Herman Goering." --The New York Times

"Herr Zweig presents this story with considerable skill, with compelling force...It is a good story." --The New York Times

"What is so impressive about Beware of Pity is Zweig's ability to make us feel the violently shifting emotions of all his characters as if they were our own. Only a writer of great sensitivity could do this. His theme, or moral, which he does not obtrude on us in any clumsy way, is that impulsive pity for others is a dangerous emotion with embroils us in false situations, often with disastrous results." --Sunday Telegraph

"Beware of Pity is an utterly unsparing dissection of the corruptions of false pity...In stripping away the lies with which we disguise our true desires from ourselves, Zweig lays bare the larger lies of the age: it was, in fact, the perfect novel for that 'low, dishonest decade,' as Auden termed it." --The New York Sun

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (June 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172001
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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160 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Abell on January 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
Zweig was one of the world's best known and respected authors in the 1920s and 1930s. The burning of his books by the Nazis, and the subsequent changes in taste after the war have relegated most of his books to an undeserved obscurity. As a personal friend of Freud (Zweig gave the eulogy at Freud's funeral), he understood brilliantly how to portray the psychological state of his characters. This novel is particularly rich in that regard, as the main character finds himself facing a series of moral and spiritual choices he is ill-prepared to make. In an attempt to apologize for a social mistake (unintentionally insulting his host's daughter at a party), he finds himself ever more absorbed into the life and concerns of this family. Every time he's faced with a difficult choice, he gives way to his emotions, and invariably makes matters worse. Zweig's original title, "Impatience of the Heart," aptly describes Toni Hofmiller's problem: he ignores logic and discretion to follow his feelings. We all live in a society that tends to view human emotions as the most important factor in human interaction. Zweig's genius lies to demonstrating for us what a questionable assumption that is. One of the finest novels I've ever read (and that's saying something).
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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By jlaudan@omm.com on November 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
Toni Hofmiller, a 25 year-old lieutenant in the Austrian army prior to the outbreak of WWI, meets Edith, the daughter of the local magnate. Toni committs a "gaffe", asking her to dance while not realizing until too late that Edith is handicapped and cannot walk. Suddenly Toni becomes aware of (and, as an immature youth, is trapped by) the power of compassion. Through no fault of his own (unless good intentions can make one culpable), he leads Edith and her father to believe that Edith may be cured.
"Beware of Pity" has been called a psychological novel, perhaps because the narrator (Toni) alternates in describing his feelings of self-love, power and satisfaction (when visiting Edith and thus sharing his goodness and compassion), and those of confusion and despair when realizing, unwittingly, that Edith has fallen in love with him. He is driven deeper into despair when told by Dr. Condor, Edith's doctor, that Edith may die if her love is unrequited. In analyzing the conflicted feelings of Toni, Zweig wrote a formidable novel of compassion and responsibility for one's actions. Dr. Condor serves as the literary foil of Toni; the doctor's true compassion for Edith (i.e., "unsentimental but productive, that knows what it wants and is ready to share in one's suffering to the limit, and beyond") contrasts starkly with Toni's unbridled compassion, which is nothing more than the other type of compassion, false, fleeting and unreliable, "the impatience of the heart" (which, incidentally, in the direct translation of the title from the original German). Zweig does not fault Toni for his youthful immaturity, as shown by Dr. Condor's feelings for Toni. Zweig does not, however, exonerate him from blame, and the tale moves forward, inexorably, to its tragic end.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Mara Kurtz on July 1, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Beware of Pity" is a brilliant book by one of the world's great writers.
This fascinating "psychological" novel is reminiscent of "Rebecca" in the way the story unfolds slowly and then totally envelops the reader. I actually read it straight through the first time, had to miss the next day's work. I've loved it just as much with each reread.
Zweig writes beautifully. He demonstrates elegance, economy, subtlety. There is never a wasted word.
While you are at it, read his short story "The Royal Game."
These are two examples of fiction at its very best.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on June 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the introduction to this book Joan Acocella tells Zweig's story as a writer. One of her claims is that despite his enormous popularity as biographer, essayist, writer of great novellas and stories, this novel is his masterpience. The novel is in essence the story of a feeling, of 'pity' of how it becoming the obsession and duty of the main character turns self- serving and destructive. Briefly , the book revolves around the relationship between a poor Austrian officer Hoffstein and a crippled seventeen year old daughter of a wealthy family Edith Kekesfalvas. After he has inadvertently insulted her by having asked her to dance he becomes bound into a relationship with her, in which she falls deeply in love with him without his truly reciprocating. This is how Acocella reads the protagonist's reasoning and its result after her doctor informs him that it would be disastrous for him to abandon her.

"So he descends ever deeper into hypocrisy. In the process, Zweig gives us a piercing analysis of the motives underlying pity. Gradually Hofmiller realizes how much he enjoys the courtesies paid to him for his emotional services, how it pleases him that when he arrives at the Schloss his favorite cigarettes--and also the novel (its pages already cut) that he had said in passing that he wanted to read--are laid out on the tea table. Nor is it lost on him that his own sense of strength is magnified by Edith's weakness and, above all, by his growing power over the Kekesfalvas, the fact that if he, a poor soldier, does not present himself at teatime, this great, rich household is thrown into a panic, and the chauffeur is dispatched to town to spy him out and see what he is doing in preference to waiting on Edith.
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