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Burning Secret and Other Stories Paperback – April 28, 1989

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“What did Zweig have that brought him the fanatical devotion of millions of readers, the admiration of Herman Hesse, the invitation to give the eulogy at the funeral of Sigmund Freud? To learn that, we would have to have a biography that illuminated all aspects of his work, that read all of his books, and that challenged, rather than accepted, the apparent modesty of his statements about his life and work.” – Benjamin Moser, Bookforum
 
“[Burning Secret is] a devastatingly accurate picture of childhood on the cusp of adolescent disillusion.” – Gary Indiana, Bookforum

"Breathtaking... the final sentence is unlike anything I have ever read before; and transforms not only the book, but, in a way, the reader as well." - Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

"Zweig is the most adult of writers; civilised, urbane, but never jaded or cynical; a realist who none the less believed in the possibility—the necessity—of empathy." - Independent

 "Touching and delightful. Those adjectives are not meant as faint praise. Zweig may be especially appealing now because rather than being a progenitor of big ideas, he was a serious entertainer, and an ardent and careful observer of habits, foibles, passions and mistakes." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times  --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Stefan Zweig (1881–1942) was a novelist, playwright, journalist, and biographer. His other titles include Beware of Pity, Chess Story, Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman, and The Post Office Girl.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (April 28, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525484965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525484967
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,327,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
We must be grateful to the Pushkin Press for publishing a series of novellas by the wonderful Stefan Zweig, and this and some of the other volumes have been newly and brilliantly translated by Anthea Bell.

We are in Zweig country. The scenery is wonderfully conveyed in the opening pages. The story is set in the eroticized atmosphere at the end of the Habsburg Empire. There are three characters: a suave baron, on holiday at a hotel, who is an accomplished, cold and determined seducer; an elegant woman who is his more than half-willing prey; and her lonely twelve-year-old son Edgar. The baron first opens his campaign by befriending the boy. Edgar responds passionately to the baron's apparent interest in him, but then he discovers, first with bewilderment and then with rage, that he is in fact de trop. We have to accept that the sheltered Edgar is more innocent than a twelve-year old boy would be today. He guesses that the adults are keeping something from him, but he cannot work out what that secret might be. But he takes his revenge by making sure that he would continue to be de trop, since this was obviously embarrassing and inhibiting them both.

I must not reveal the rest of the story; but it is tense and moving, and Edgar veers back and forth between dependent childhood and the first frightening steps of independence.

The thoughts of all three characters are described with the amplitude and subtlety that is characteristic of this very great writer.
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Format: Paperback
The title of the novel is suggestive enough to justify it being a Mills and Boon publication (in fact, Simon and Schuster has published a similar title "Burning Secrets", but with a far more revealing cover and greater number of burning secrets, I am sure). But this novel comes as close to a taking a cold shower, as is possible. The novel captures the feeling of dejection, anger and confusion of a 12 year old on being used and then discarded by an alpha male in pursuit of his mother. A milder version of this scenario is experienced by almost every married couple when the pre-teenager decides not to fall asleep on a fragrant full moon summer's night by the seaside. The book, however, shows how well the Austrian upper society was integrated before the second world war, for the alpha male is a lower rank Austrian baron and the lady Jewish; this being just a part of the story without have attention drawn to it. Also, the novel depicts the emotions of all actors well, though overly verbose at times- the game mentality and single-minded pursuit of prey by the baron, the sense of boredom and excitement of illicit relationship at start of middle age of the mother, the anger, confusion and behavior of the jilted youth. Maturity is finally reached not by learning the secrets of the grownups. How it is reached, is the burning secret.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This novella takes place just before the World War I. A young boy named Edgar and his mother go off to the country on a holiday of sorts. The boy is awkward and a little sickly and hopefully this time away will do him some good. While there he meets the charismatic baron, a man who's intent is to seduce the boy's mother.

The baron tries to get access to the mother by befriending the boy. Poor young Edgar is awkward and shy and when the handsome and beguiling baron shows such an interest in him Edgar becomes ecstatic. He has a friend! And a friend with great stories who is interested in him! But gradually Edgar starts to see that the baron is using him to get to the mother and that his mother is willing to let that happen.

What effect does that have on the boy and what will he do? What does it mean to be betrayed like that and how does a naive 12 year old process this? This terrific little novel shows you just how these traumas can proceed the rather abrupt passage from childhood to an understanding of the adult world and the changes that come from that.

If you haven't read Stefan Zweig, you should give him a try. He is one of my very favorite writers and I have yet to hit a bad novel or short story. He is simply brilliant and I am beyond pleased that Pushkin Press has decided to publish his work anew and reintroduce him to readers. In his time, Zweig was one of the most popular writers and he was friends with Freud. One of the things I love about Zweig is that his books and stories all show a strong psychological element - and this novella is no exception.
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Zweig has lately been going through a praiseworthy revival and informs our sense of the years between the war years. There is a burning tension in the title story and a feverish intensity in the narrative voice and the urgency of the subject matter.
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This story was about what went on in the mind of a 13 year old boy in the early part of the 20th Century who is used by a stranger to come on to his mother. The child watches as the adults first use him and then ignore him to carry out their tryst. The story also eavesdrops on the thinking of the adults. The boy is confused by what is happening with the adults and angered when he is left out or treated like a child.
After a minimally violent scene with the adults, he runs away and pays more attention to other adults as he makes his way to his grandparents home. He finds he is capable of negotiating an adult world and that adults work at a variety of jobs. He realizes that he is no longer seeing the world as a child. At his grandparents' there is a reunion and he is reintegrated into the love of family including his mother. She has forsaken her fling with the stranger to keep the family intact but she is relying on him to keep secret her attempt to stray. He knows he has some power over her but at the moment he knows, if he keeps the secret, he can continue to be a child and ease into a wider understanding of life.
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