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The World of Yesterday Paperback – May 1, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
The universal joy in 1914 at the outbreak of war appalled him, and he became so unpopular for decrying it that eventually he emigrated to Switzerland, to work for the Red Cross.
He returned to Vienna in 1919, and was eventually 'forgiven' by his now-contrite friends. But when during the '20s he was invited to the UUSR, and he returned saying it was hell, his avantguard friends rejected him again.
He retired to Salzburg. In 1933, on Hitler's accession to power, he warned that Hitler would invade Austria and kill all the Jews. He was disbelieved. He emigrated to Britain, where he was appalled by the complacency of the government. Finally, via New York (where he wrote this book) he emigrated to Rio in Brazil (he doesn't spell it out, but he did this presumably because he thought the UK would fall to the Germans, and he feared being detained in the US as an enemy alien). It was in Rio in 1942, at the height of German power, that he killed himself in despair.
In this beautiful book, Zweig creates a fin de siecle elegy for his youth, but unlike the previous reviewer I do not think he is nostalgic. His regret is for his illusions that art was synonymous with moral goodness, and his despair over the folly of his fellow men. It was not so much the evil of a few that upset him but the lack of wisdom of the many.
I believe that Zweig was the clearest thinker of the 20th Century, the worst century since the 14th, and I believe his book should be required reading for all.Read more ›
It is a shocking report about what he calls the 'Apocalypse': terror, war, revolutions, inflation, famine, epidemics, emigration, the rise of bolshevism, fascism and the most horrific plague of all: nationalism.
He gives us a compelling story of contrasts: the soldiers in the trenches and the arms merchants with their luxury life; English unemployed in five star hotels in Salzburg because they could afford a luxury life on the continent with their unemployment benefits; the brothels and the suicides because of syphilis (Eros Matutina); and the desertion of the Kaiser as a thief in the night at the end of the war, after driving millions of his compatriots into a certain death.
He also relates his encounters with fellow writers like Gide, Rolland, Rilke or Verhaeren.
A moving, outspoken, penetrating and emotional report.
Zweig was born in 1881, so the times he describes are not more than 100 years away from ours - and yet it is all incredibly far away, even to a European like myself. Zweig describes pre-war Austria-Hungary as a "world of security" where nothing ever changed. The Jewish Bourgeoisie to which he belonged were obsessed with culture; even as adolescents, Zweig and his friends tried to get hold of the latest in German and French poetry. And to understand what you have heard about Freud, just read the chapter about the sexual hypocrisy among Vienna's upper class around 1900!
World War I changes this world of tolerance and security for ever. Zweig's country is broken up into ridiculous fragments, and the German-speaking countries are in a state of unrest which will eventually lead them into the self-destruction of Nazi barbarism. At the same time, the 1920s are a time of unprecedented creativity for German and Austrian writers (Thomas Mann, Musil, Rilke, Kafka etc.). Zweig shows us this wonderful world of letters, not just in his own country and language, but also in France, Italy, England. He meets Joyce, Rilke, G.B. Shaw, H.G. Wells and Yeats. Zweig's book shows you the riches European culture had to offer before World War II put an end to it. Zweig himself tried to start a new life in Brazil, but when the Nazis had conquered all of Europe in 1942, Zweig gave up all hope and committed suicide. Zweig's tragic fate mirrors that of Europe in his time. This book should be read by anyone who is interested in European culture in the 20th century.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For those who learn little of European history (i.e. Anglos) this book is an insight into that history from a great writer, who was personally affected by the events of the... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
Zweig's biography is nostalgic as well as enlightening. The world of the last years of the Hapsburg era is completely gone now, destroyed by the catastrophe of the great war and... Read morePublished 1 month ago by John Mclafferty
If you love literature and are interested in the first half of the 20th century in Europe, this is incredibly well written. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nicole
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Beautiful writing and a compelling story of Zweig's life in his beloved Vienna during the rise of National Socialism in the 1930s... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Suzanne M. Wheat
Amazing description of the pre-WW 1 optimism in Ausrtria about civilization and the continued progress of the world economicaly, socialy and moraly.. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
A network view of European history 1890-1940 ... highlighting relationships between key player of the time ... Zweig was UNIQUELY positioned to describe this period. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Calvin B. Arnason