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Beware of Pity (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – June 20, 2006
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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
Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The plot starts as tragicomedy - a simple social blunder by Subaltern Toni Hofmiller gradually grows to something that inextricably links him to the Kevesfalva family and their paraplegic daughter, Edith. Initially motivated by the desire to rectify his embarrassment, Hofmiller allows himself to be cast as healer and ultimate savior to the hopelessly debilitated girl. Both Edith's father, the Baron, and her physician, the enigmatic Dr. Condor, see Hofmiller as the girl's last hope.
Gradually, it occurs to Hofmiller that he might actually love Edith. This revelation comes to him through the blind wife of Dr. Condor, but by then Hofmiller has transferred to another unit just as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand occurs. Predictably, he learns of Edith's suicide shortly after the fact, an event that had been foreshadowed early and often throughout the book.
Hofmiller's subsequent attainment of hero status based on his feats in the First World War is diminished by his own acknowledgement that his "heroism" was based on not caring about his own life in the wake of Edith's death.
While pity and misguided compassion are the overriding themes of the book, conformity and Hofmiller's fear of his comrades derision over his relationship with the crippled Edith play equally important roles leading to the ultimate tragedy.
Beware Of Pity is an engaging classic capturing enduring themes in an historical setting that make the pages seem to fly by. Highly recommended.
To my mind, we are left by Zweig to consider how much our words and actions are the result of genuine feelings such as compassion, pity and love, and how much they are the result of our desire that others think well of us, and that we fit in with our social groups. Hofmiller does not want to recognize that he may be motivated largely by the latter, and so he tries to please all the people all of the time. The result is like watching one long, fascinating, slow-motion train wreck. Zweig's subtle revelations of psychological motivations and responses are what power this narrative, and I cannot think of another novelist (I have read (a limited number of authors, I admit, so I am happy to become better informed) who has dealt with this difficult subject matter so well.