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The World of Yesterday Paperback – May 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"The autobiography of the internationally famous biographer and dramatist is a chronicle of three ages: the golden days of Vienna that ended with World War I; that war and its aftermath; and the Hitler years. Three ages do come to life in Zweig's book."—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

"When I opened it, I immediately felt that rare thrill one experiences when meeting a great book."—

"A searing memoir."—Intelligent Life
(Intelligent Life)

The World of Yesterday is one of the greatest memoirs of the twentieth century, as perfect in its evocation of the world Zweig loved as it is in its portrayal of how that world was destroyed.”—David Hare, award–winning playwright and director of film and theater
(David Hare)

The World of Yesterday is ostensibly an autobiography, but it is much more than that. In this remarkably fine new translation, Anthea Bell perfectly captures Stefan Zweig’s glorious evocation of a lost world, Vienna’s golden age, in which he grew up and flourished.”—Ronald Harwood, award-winning author, playwright, and screenwriter
(Ronald Harwood)

“The very success with which this book evokes both the beauty of the past and the fatality of its passing is what gives it tragic effectiveness. It is not so much a memoir of a life as it is the memento of an age, and the author seems, in his own phrase, to be the narrator at an illustrated lecture. The illustrations are provided by time, but his choice is brilliant and the narration is evocative.”—New Republic
(New Republic)

About the Author

Stefan Zweig (1881–1942) was an Austrian novelist, journalist, biographer, and playwright prominent in the 1920s and 1930s. He is the author of several books, including the novels Beware of Pity and Confusion of Feelings and the biography Conqueror of the Seas: The Story of Magellan. Anthea Bell has translated many French, German, Danish, and Polish literary works into English. Her translations include Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir The Pianist, W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, and numerous works of children's literature.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; Reprint edition (May 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803226616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803226616
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David H. Gustafson on November 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an amazing memoir with an unbelievable cast of characters bringing to life the brilliance of Europe before it fell into the mass grave of the First World War.

Half way through I picked up Florian Illies' 1913, chronicling month-by-month, the personal struggles, wandering, eccentricities and triumphs of many of Europe's literary, intellectual and historical stars. I would then compliment each chapter of Zweig's memoir with a month or two from Florian's small masterpiece referencing many of the same characters.

May I recommend them both simultaneously!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
On reading this book, my first thought is that this is much more than a biography. It is a portrait of an era and a love letter to Stefan Zweig’s beloved Europe; written after he was forced into exile by the onslaught of fascism. However, the book begins with Zweig growing up in Austria, prior to WWI, in, what he terms, the Golden Age of Security. Austria seemed to have a stable government and consistency in the Habsburg monarchy. There was a sense of order and everyone knew their place in society. Despite Zweig’s remembrances being a little rose-tinted, there are hints that not all was perfect. He admits to finding school pointless and dreary, complains about the lack of natural relationships between men and women and sneers at the duellists at university. Throughout the book, Zweig’s love is for literature and he opts to study philosophy not out of any love for the subject, but because he believes it will inconvenience him the least and leave him time to write.

There are many portraits of other authors, musicians and artists in this book. Zweig suggests that European Jewry saw their support of the arts as a way in which they could make their mark and find a niche for themselves – other avenues, like the army, being virtually barred to them. Luckily, it was an area he adored and he spent much of his time collecting memorabilia from those he admired. He writes of the unrest leading up to WWI and recalls how the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was greeted without distress, as he was generally unpopular. Zweig is always utterly honest in his writing, admitting, “there is nothing heroic in my nature,” and that he had a perfectly natural desire to evade dangerous situations.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Richard Harrington on September 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently discovered Zweig, sad to admit because I'm 71 years of age and have a graduate degree. This book is a description of a world gone by. For simplification, think of the lyrics to the songs in Romberg's "Student Prince". The Vienna, the Austria of old, how wonderful, The Viennese waltz, the decorum of the times, etc. After one reads this, one begins to think that Zweig is a bit fragile, even naïve. But you want to read his other books as well.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By tobias on June 27, 2014
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After seeing the movie Budapest Hotel, I wondered about the author of the short story that provided the basis for this movie and whose statue was celebrated in the first scene, the Austrian author Stephan Zweig. The book is mostly about Europe, specifically Austria and mostly Vienna before WWI. He elicits the seemingly carefree atmosphere among the people prior to this war and how the leaders managed to change the character of the people, manipulating them into this disastrous war. The account turns dark later in the book as he recounts the feelings in Europe as WWII approached, the widespread madness the seized the population, the demonic onslaught of the Nazis and the immense destruction, including the intellectual wasting of a generation of writers, poets, musicians, and scientists. Zweig is able to capture the atmosphere in his very fine writing style. (I I can understand why he became so famous during the first half of the century.) Although nominally an autobiography, Zweig tells us little about his personal life. For example, he refers about 2/3rd of the way though the book for the first time to his wife. When he married and under what circumstances was never mentioned. I'm not even sure that he had any children. Yet, the man, Zweig, comes though the writing very clearly and sympathetically.. I wish I knew him.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Anne-Marie on November 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
This little classic is really a memoir of life before World War II and Adolf Hitler by one of the bestselling authors in Europe, a man who loved to write so much that he said that "work is my vacation." Reading this book is bittersweet, like being taken on a lovely tour that you know is going to end badly. Still, there is something to come that you can't be prepared for. I see this book reminds some people of songs. For me it is Duran Duran's nostalgic "Ordinary World".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By otto k on May 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Zweig, perhaps more than any other writer, encapsulated what it was like to be privileged, intelligent and living in a world about to be toppled from an impossible pedestal. In "The World of Yesterday" he aptly describes its impossibilities, delusions and fantasies. Among them were the impossible ideals Zweig himself espoused: a pan-European state, a universal brotherhood of like minded intellectuals, and an obsessive veneration for the past. As an artist his unrivaled popularity perhaps led to his unwillingness to fight against the dark forces that collapsed Europe during his lifetime. He always choose flight over fight, eventually committing suicide with his new bride in a remote location in Brazil, a place he somehow imagined would resurrect a facsimile of his shattered world. (Unlike innumerable Germanic Europeans - Mann, Arendt, Adorno, Einstein, to name a few - who fled Europe in the 30's and stayed in the US to fight fascism.) There are many lessons to be drawn from"..Yesterday", the most important being the impossibility of knowing when "it can't happen here" will, as it invariably does, happen. For a better written, contemporaneous, and more insightful record of the era described by Zweig, read the diaries of Count Harry Kessler. It is unsurpassed as a record those tumultuous times.
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