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A Man Out of Time

Darran Anderson interviews Will Stone, poet and translator of Journeys, on Stefan Zweig.


3:AM: What initially attracted you to Stefan Zweig‘s writing?

Will Stone: The writings of Zweig I came across early on were the short stories, some of those published by Pushkin Press in their attractive paper cover first editions. What struck me was the psychological depth Zweig employed concerning his characters, something which Freud famously admired, but also the sense of an often morbidly existential shading to each text, the consequent tension produced and the unconscious poetic infusion of the prose. Zweig is not a light writer, nor a kind of oily hanger on to the greats, a fake, as Michael Hofmann in his spectacularly misinformed power drill frenzy in the London Review of Books would have us believe. One only has to read stories like ‘Chess’, ‘Buchmendel’ and ‘Amok’ to see his power. This alertness to the existential, the tragic insufficiency of human behaviour, is something rarely mentioned, but is crucial I feel and is something a poet senses instinctively when he/she recognises a fellow albeit writing in prose. I was also later attracted to his non-fiction works by the important fact of a feeling of fraternity between Zweig who celebrates authors who have touched him and helped him and to whom he feels a debt and wishes to repay not only in homage but by insights of his own. This struck me as crucial in that I the reader was also then entering into this seduction, this chain of equivalence, this pro-active celebration of the creative spirit seasoned by solitude. This ‘generosity’ towards others of Zweig also appeals to me, but not only that, the sense that he is communing across the ages, is an element which is very pronounced in Zweig’s work and was an important factor in both sustaining his life and prefiguring his death.

3:AM: The definition of travel in Journeys is an interesting one; “relentlessly discovering in the temporal and intellectual new forms of freedom… the art of leaving oneself behind.“ Travel as a life-changing experience rather than just luxury or entertainment. And to prevent the magic of travel being reduced to the mundane, he seems to advocate continual historical perspective and awareness, to read the past constantly in the present (what might be called psychogeography today). In other words, he’s not just a tourist. Would that be a fair assessment?

WS: Yes, a fair assessment. Zweig was naturally suspicious and hostile to the early signs of mass tourism. We see this clearly in the essay ‘To travel of be travelled’ where he rails against the new fashion for ‘package tours’ and exhorts the benefits to the spirit of travelling alone, at the caprice of chance. But he was still a tourist himself, though an erudite one constantly equipped with curiosity and with a knack for teasing out the poetic nuances of a location. But as a tourist Zweig was primarily a thinker, a distiller and a connoisseur of place. He was extremely well travelled and was due to his financial stability compared to many of his contemporaries, used to a certain freedom of movement un-restricted by costs or time. And surely Zweig saw in travel the physical equivalent of intellectual freedom, and this relentless travelling was not only a means of reaching people of a similar persuasion, or visiting a location pertinent to his spiritual development, but symbolically speaking a way of echoing the ideal of forging a pan-European community of like-minded intellectuals. The notion of a ‘spiritual’ minded Europe, may sound naïve today, but previous to and even following the cataclysm of The First World War, was deemed possible and wholly desirable by a number of leading writers from disparate countries. That is why I wrote in my introduction to Journeys of his travel by rail being an attempt ‘to stitch the countries together’. Zweig, through rail travel, ‘feels’ the distance and the size of countries, whereas mass travel by air today destroys this sense of a European community of nations united by a common culture and replaces it with a recklessly fluid one. Zweig as you say ‘reads the past constantly in the present’. In the essay on Chartres, there is a powerful piece about the new technologically enhanced Paris and the way it has changed in recent years from the more romantic Paris of Zweig’s ‘golden age’, the time of his youth. Again and again Zweig is nostalgic, but at the same time still hopeful about the possibilities for human achievement on the back of such technology, or at least from the vortex of energy it encourages. Such redoutable optimism is learned in part from the poet Emile Verhaeren, whose works Zweig had enthusiastically absorbed during his twenties.


3:AM: Reading Journeys, Zweig comes across, at his best, as a poet of feeling. It’s not a travel book of anecdotes or curios but much more about the emotions that travel stirs in him; very often awe and this strange nostalgia he has for history (take the following, “truth to tell, one would not have been at all surprised to see a medieval night watchman loom up from the shadows, sounding through the alleys the Meistersingers nocturnal chant that the hour of sleep had come”). In the ironic trick-obsessed atmosphere of postmodernism, there’d be no room for a writer of such sincerity. What do you think his strengths as a writer are and what do you think accounts for his fall from one of the most popular literary figures on the planet to relative obscurity?

WS: Zweig has, it seems to me, his roots firmly in the Nineteenth Century. More than once he has been compared to Maupassant, in relation to his short stories more than anything. We only have to look at Zweig’s choice of subjects for his non-fiction essays and biographies to see he was fascinated by figures from the past, stretching back to Erasmus and Magellan, subjects who he felt an affinity with or who moved him in some way by their humanity or intransigence in the face of the tyranny or the innate stupidity of their time. So this rich past is always present in Zweig’s writings, more overtly than his contemporaries it would seem to me. He was infused with the past and had an acute sense of its passing and the remnants left behind, the rubble of history lays all around his works and even could be said to support them. But I had a conversation about this with Dr Martin Liebscher at the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre in London, the way Zweig is perceived by modernists as a bit of an old fashioned writer who had somehow missed the bus and was not up to the level of a Hermann Broch or a Thomas Mann. We were tired of hearing the same old accusations, that Zweig was a lesser writer, an easily accessible story writer harnessed to popular tastes, who could not deign to approach the towering edifices of Mann and co, a self satisfied man with a cigar in his mouth leaning benevolently from train windows and chased around Europe by a fan club of young idealistic women who had leapt on the authenticity of Zweig’s female characters and made Zweig their svelte romantic pin up. But this is a delusion spread by critics of Zweig’s writings who long to undermine his success. But the fact is Zweig was popular because he produced plausible insights into his characters, maintained a tension in his writings and his stories were hard to resist once taken up. Readers were moved by the instinctively human qualities they encountered. In his essays on Nietzsche and others Zweig shows the same attention to the human, to the personal foibles of a great artist and shows with compassion the gulf between the public perception of a figure like Nietzsche and the reality of his supremely isolated predicament. One feels Zweig cares about Nietzsche as well as revering him. And it is this factor that is crucial in explaining Zweig’s success, it is genuine compassion and awareness of human frailty that comes through and appeals to the reader. Why Zweig famously had such an insight into female psychology has not been fully explained, but it is certainly true that he had a remarkable gift in this regard. But his other gift was that Zweig considered himself a spiritually responsible interlocutor between his subjects and the reader. He wanted to celebrate someone else’s achievements, not his own. Zweig did not consider himself a great writer and was uneasy with, as he saw it, the disproportionate level of fame accorded him. Where Thomas Mann was perpetually concerned with his standing in the German literary firmament, Zweig was far more modest. He was a connoisseur of others works, which is why he amassed a vast collection of manuscripts and writings from the leading European cultural figures of the Twentieth century. Ten years ago before Pushkin Press took up the reins, there was almost no Zweig available in the UK. He had simply vanished and could only be found by sheer luck in second hand bookshops in old editions from Cassell dating from the forties and fifties. Now Pushkin are gradually pumping out and raising these old sunken craft to the surface, thus Marie Antoinette and Magellan are back in bookshops.

The renowned insularity of the British reading public and its feeders, the broadsheet cultural supplements, was clearly to blame and an unwillingness or total blindness by English publishers to restore Zweig’s fiction treasures to their rightful standing. In France Zweig is and always has been a huge figure and almost all his work both fiction and non fiction is available in mass produced pocket editions. The French, even more than the Germans, are seduced by Zweig’s literature, perhaps partly due to their own nostalgic ideals about Europe. They saw in Zweig a spiritual torchbearer from the past, a man who sacrificed himself rather than compromise for Europe. Sadly there is a malignant posthumous romantic crustacean that has formed over Zweig, partly due to his suicide, which one must take care not to feed too wilfully. Some of the English reviews of his work and book blurbs have fallen into this trap, with their vacuous crowing of ‘our lost genius’ and ‘enter the master’. Unfortunately the same disease is overtaking WG Sebald, whose death almost a decade ago has spawned an always recruiting army of self promoting acolytes keen to espouse their own work through constantly celebrating their hero ‘Max’. What Sebald himself might have thought of such a circus is not difficult to imagine. In the UK it takes a small independent press like Pushkin and now with Journeys, Hesperus, plus a few tentative forays from Penguin to re-establish his presence. It seems very odd that it took this long for Zweig’s star to rise again, but the current zeitgeist is probably also a factor. The tenor of his writings seems to somehow fit our troubled epoch, the latent anxiety and existentially challenged human portraits are seductive, also the sense of nostalgia, of a lost age that Zweig tends to evoke is surely to blame. But also he is one of a number of middle Europe authors resurrected in recent times, along with his friend Joseph Roth and the recent runaway success of one Hans Fallada. Holes in literature have to be filled eventually and the rise of small independent presses like Hesperus, Alma, One World Classics has meant that these once gaping holes are now being steadily filled in. Perhaps also their pioneer spirit has encouraged larger English publishers to lose their fear of translation and meant they are prepared to take the risks which permit a whole generation to savour significant European Twentieth Century authors who were until recently scandalously neglected. The recent success of Alone in Berlin by Fallada would seem to suggest this.


3:AM: One particularly haunting quality of the book is the knowledge that the cities he visits were destined to be destroyed, that within a few years the bombs and the blitzkrieg would come and they would never again appear the way they did to Zweig. Rather than just introduce us to destinations, the book’s a requiem of sorts. Zweig seems to have had an inkling that this would happen, he warns in ‘Requiem for a Hotel’ – “only loss reveals true value”. Did you have a sense of the book as both a set of postcards from a lost world and also a memento mori for the present day?

WS: Yes the book seems to be a requiem for a lost Europe long before it was actually lost. Probably because the seeds of this loss were sown after the First World War and began to shoot up through the inter war years. This tension seems to crank up as it were when one reaches the later essays around the time of the Second World War, but even earlier on this sense of time running out pervades the collection. I think Zweig was extremely sensitive to loss and the sense that human beings are unaware of how what they are doing in the present impacts on the future. He exhibits certain prophetic qualities in this regard and although he has no idea of the ferocity and barbarism that is to come, he is aware instinctively of the light slowly fading. I think he is, as a traveller, seeing places and making comparisons, between different visits, at different times, as we see in the Italian essay, which enable him to make judgements and over the whole collection this fans the flames of anxiety regarding the way the world is slowly de-spiritualised, so to speak, by the commercial and the totalitarian. So, yes this book is a memento mori of a past utterly vanished, which was vanishing even as it was recorded, something which cannot be regained, and it was this that Zweig was so sensitive to, that terrible realisation. This is most vividly shown in the Zurich essay about the old Hotel Schwert becoming a tax office, but occurs with a greater or lesser insistence throughout the collection.

3:AM: In his essay on visiting the battlefields of Ypres (particularly the ‘Jamboree upon the dead’ section), you see the beginnings of ‘dark tourism’ as it’s called (Auschwitz, Chernobyl etc) and the age of the callous/sentimental voyeur or grief tourist emerging, do you think that’s something he prophesied?

WS: An interesting question… It is certainly what draws me to this essay and makes it one which I think is so important in the collection. This is an area I have an interest in myself and I am writing my own essay on Ypres, as one of a number concerning locations in Belgium, so Zweig’s essay was timely and fascinating for me particularly because so much of what he hinted at is in some sense the same today. I even found a shop selling curios made out of cartridges and shell fragments and the buses still pulling into the great market square in Ypres, now painstakingly restored to disgorge their battlefield enthusiast occupants. What Zweig shows is that we rarely progress but continue in the same vein, largely because we are unaware of the past, and this is the danger of course, that an unawareness of the past makes the future even more terrifying, as the same mistakes may be made. This brings me to the question of Auschwitz, iconic skull and bones flagship for the Holocaust industry. Yes, I think he actually unknowingly prophesises this ‘dark tourism’ as you term it, where people are morbidly drawn to locations of acute suffering whilst remaining protected from where they are by time. That they can stand and stare at graves and trenches imagining the horrors that took place there and somehow be personally enhanced by this, stimulated for no purpose but their own gratification, curiosity or emotional stirrings. Nothing has changed in this respect, only the horror level of the location, in terms of a death factory like Auschwitz, which Zweig could not have imagined, for he only knew of a war of destruction concerning soldiers not civilians, and not his own Jewish race. Although news of mass shootings of Jews had apparently filtered through to him in Brazil and can only have exacerbated his desire to commit suicide. But what is pertinent in this ‘Jamboree upon the dead’ is that the descendants of those who took the comfortable motor cars to the battlefields and were back in their hotels in time to dress for dinner, are now able to respond to an advert in Krakow that advertises ‘Day trips to Auschwitz, to and from your hotel in Krakow’ — with the possibility of further excursions to the beautiful Zakopane Mountains…’ This proves that whatever bestial excesses the human race is embroiled in, such as the Holocaust, they are still able to absorb such an event into a future commercial venture and thereby circumnavigate in some sense its insupportable reality. For then Auschwitz like the Ypres trenches becomes a place of imagination, of language and ‘experience’, rather than one of numbing reality. It is to be absorbed in order that the human race might carry it with them more comfortably, whilst still proceeding into a future that is hopelessly warped by that event. This is why the coaches that entered the square in Ypres and those that now enter the ‘reception area’ at Auschwitz are filled with the same people, merely responding across time to the same instincts based on curiosity, novelty and the slippery eel of ‘education’. It is this that Zweig touches on in his essay, where after his diatribe he says that despite this human voyeurism, it is still to the good that people visit such sites of memorial. In this I think Zweig still displays a lingering faith in humanity which was surely to be sorely tested a decade on. One might like to ask, what does the individual then do with this ‘education’, having seen and witnessed the site, beyond the rhetoric of ‘it must never happen again.’


3:AM: In the course of translating the collection, you travelled to the actual places Zweig visited, did you feel it brought you closer to the writer’s vision and did you sense the same personalities of place that he seemed to (deathly melancholic Bruges, majestic Avignon etc)?

WS: In some cases there was a sense of communing with Zweig in certain places. Take Avignon, where I visited the pope’s palace, no longer a caserne for soldiers, but still largely as Zweig would have seen it in physical terms. Much of what Zweig described I was looking at, possibly from where he stood on a terrace looking out across the Rhone valley, and in Arles too where I spent some weeks, I saw the same monuments and churches, the Alyscamps…Though in all these places, there is now strong presence of organised tourism, which Zweig would not have tolerated. In Bruges, it is very different, as the ‘dead city’ of Rodenbach has been replaced with a façade, which though appearing accurate is a dummy of the enchanted town which enthralled Zweig. Bruges is now a tourist-saturated enclave, filled to bursting with chocolate shops and luxury hotels and designer shops to placate the international tourist. The once melancholy canals so revered by Rodenbach, resound with the megaphone blare of boat guides addressing their cargo of tourists. The town is a fantastic experiment in commercial profit from history and the town coffers are overflowing. Zweig would have blanched if he saw today how every brick in Bruges must be scrubbed and façade cleaned to meet the suburban expectations of its commercially tainted guardians.

3:AM: In your introduction you call Zweig “a man out of time”, out of sorts with the modern world, perhaps harking back to some earlier, more civilised (and possibly imaginary) time. It seems, unfortunately for Zweig, that his most prized attributes; gentility, humanism, high art, pacifism, cosmopolitanism, were especially badly-suited to the age he lived in: the age of Stalin and Hitler. Do you think he was born in the wrong time and did a right time ever really exist?

WS: It’s perhaps an attractive prospect to say he lived out of his time, but I doubt he would have had the same impact with his writing then or even more importantly perhaps now, if his personality and values had not challenged so dramatically those of the tyrannical age which he was forced to pass through. I think he was a man with one foot in the Nineteenth Century and one in the Twentieth, rather like the poet he admired above all others, Emile Verhaeren, a man whom like Zweig suffered shameful neglect in the Anglophone world but unlike Zweig, has yet to surface. One might suggest the right time for Zweig was clearly the golden age of security before the First World War, the period he eulogises in his famous memoir The World of Yesterday, but this was Zweig’s formative period, not where he really blossomed as a humanist and a writer. He began to travel away from the safety of Vienna early on because he wanted to find those tensions, the truths as it were of the human game, and he ended up symbolically facing Hitler across the mountains in Salzburg. The cosseted Jewish writer now becomes hunted animal, his books burned on pyres. The Jewish race he saw as the natural leaders of European culture are destined to be exterminated. It seems that although Zweig’s writing did not pursue the radical modernist agenda of his contemporaries, he was always shaped by the tension of his epoch, by the dream of a Europe united by like-minded spirits and the reality of its eventual failure. I don’t think the achievements of Zweig in literary terms would be anything like we know today if his existence had followed a moribund path of security. The exemplary short story ‘Buchmendel’, for example would simply not exist.


3:AM: Kierkegaard wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. Similarly, there’s a danger looking back at Zweig and always seeing his life through the prism of his suicide, detecting great pathos and darkness where there may not have been any. When you read Journeys you know inevitably what’s coming and there’s an obscene contrast in your head between the civilised prose and the barbarity of what was to come, that the journeys will soon mutate from travel to flight and exile. Even as suicides go, his was an enigmatic one; killing himself in relative safety in Brazil, a martyr in the face of what he saw as a new dark age. How do you interpret his end?

WS: There was astonishment and shock when Zweig killed himself along with his young wife Lotte. Some thought it a cowardly act, or that there was a scandal of some kind. But the evidence is clear. His suicide was caused by a slow maturation of anxieties which Zweig in the end was unable or unwilling to prevent overwhelming him. First he was a depressive, his ‘black bile’ as he calls it was always with him, but he managed it by travel and escape and work. This is something Frederike, his first wife was used to dealing with and she managed to help Zweig through his crises, but it is not clear whether Lotte who was with him in Brazil had the same ability to re-align her husband’s spirit back towards work and travel. He reduced the weight of this depressive ball and chain away by forging friendships and forming alliances, addicted as he was to a sense of personal progress through work and relationships. But in Brazil most of these supports fell away. Cut off without proper access to discussion, culture or most importantly the libraries he needed, he felt irrevocably isolated. The course of the war seemed inevitable. Hitler would invade Britain and consolidate his stranglehold on Europe. The war might last twenty years and what then? His beloved Europe was lost as far as Zweig was concerned. And even if it was saved, it would be unrecognisable. His Jewish faith was another problem, He had cut himself off from any religious crutch, so he had nothing to fall back on in that respect. He was exhausted, unable to work and unable to bear the worsening news on the war. Each defeat of the allies nudged him nearer to the abyss. He read an essay by Montaigne which suggested the moment when an honourable man should take his leave from life, and he became obsessed with this idea of personal responsibility and eventually followed it through. Also for Zweig work was everything. Frederike put it this way in a letter to a friend after his death. ‘Where most men needed air to breathe, Stefan needed work.’ When this ability to work properly was cut off along with the lack of publishing outlets for any work, Zweig must have felt cornered and the reality of his exile became ever more dispiriting.


3:AM: Zweig seems to be one of those writers for which everything, intentionally or unintentionally, was autobiography. A kind of portrait seeps through, even when he writes about journeys he’s writing about himself. Would you agree?

WS: Yes I would agree, and I think Journeys can ideally be read in conjunction with The World of Yesterday, for there is much that Zweig lets slip about himself throughout these essays. Having read other essays by Zweig on various subjects, there is clearly, as you say, an autobiographical thread running through them all, partly because those he wrote about he saw an affinity with, and at particular crucial times, such as Erasmus in 1935 as he took flight from Austria, or Montaigne towards the end. Zweig is a passionate writer and shows himself by his emotional honesty and humanity throughout his works. He is not a vain and self promoting writer, but rather one who drives forward the gifts of others and sits just out of shot waiting for us to recognise him more clearly when we turn away from the subject. But as I have said before, these portraits of other writers were Zweig’s way of reinforcing his own beliefs to himself as much as to readers. In Erasmus he saw his own predicament in 1935, in Montaigne he found a last refuge in 1941. The vast collection of autographs and writings Zweig amassed throughout his life show this relentless passion for community, for a fraternity of the spirit. After he fled Austria this collection was mostly sold, lost or confiscated by the Germans. It was never to be re-established in it’s entirety (though there have been assembled fragments: his Mozart and Beethoven scores are in the British Library for example) and this collapse of the collection somehow eloquently symbolises the collapse of Zweig’s noble ideal of Europe.

3:AM: As well as Zweig, you’ve translated the likes of Georg Trakl, Charles Baudelaire, Émile Verhaeren and Georges Rodenbach. Since the death of the colossally important poet and translator Michael Hamburger, the threat of barriers coming up around English verse again seems lamentably real. How important do you think translation and a Pan-European literature are?

WS: I think the threat for translations of poetry is far worse than for prose. There seems to have been, as I suggested before an increase in interest recently for translation of great European authors’ novels. But that is because novels have always been the staple English fayre. But for poetry the sales are still very low and only a handful of publishers are willing to take on poetry in translation because it is commercially a non starter. These books only see the light of day at all due to grants or the courage or possible insanity of their publishers. Michael Hamburger made a massive contribution to poetry in translation in the UK and his achievements are barely properly acknowledged. He is far more well known and respected in Germany than in the country he, like Zweig, chose as a safe harbour. Hamburger never felt he was accepted by the English poetry establishment, however hard he strove to furnish it with the most priceless jewels of German poetry. The crassness of comments by larkinites when faced with poems by Celan and Trakl, is a stain no-one can remove, and although Celan is now hailed and celebrated by the great and the good at the Royal Festival Hall on his anniversary, this again is a recent development made possible only by the efforts of translators like Michael Hamburger, whose labours even now are often glossed over. But the fact is that the kind of poetry Paul Celan produced and the manner of his tortuous life seems absurdly remote from the hierarchical machinations of the English poetry world, it is briefly held up as a foreign exotic to be saluted and treated reverentially like a visiting head of a more powerful state, who will eventually return to their own country so we can breathe again and carry on in the same old way. People who like to spread the myth of inclusion will say the poetry scene in England is vibrant and awash with new talent and many-faceted, there is some truth in this, but the best poetry is almost always concealed in darkness just below the always illuminated crust… I suspect the poetry scene in England is too island bound and self congratulatory and media driven, too much based on monoglot middle class white liberal thirtysomethings, who seem to exclude anything which leans towards Europe, or with a whiff of the intellectual, (unless Geoffrey Hill) or to English poets who have a European outlook. Today, the English poetry festival organiser must take a sprig of African or Far Eastern poetry to adorn the stodgily domestic English fayre, and flirting with exotic cultures in this way is a trend, but on the whole I fear it is merely politically correct window dressing.

Translation itself has also become fashionable suddenly, ever since Heaney and Hughes left us a translation of one of the classics, it seems everyone else is determined to get their oar in, but with European languages it’s a bit different, because you have to actually learn them and that takes effort and application. But this does not stop senior poets without any knowledge of a foreign language making ambitious pronouncements about translation, as if somehow they can clear the linguistic hurdle just by being adamant they are right. The fact is we cannot avoid the embarrassing truth. We are becoming more insular because we don’t speak foreign languages and therefore we don’t integrate fully with our European neighbours, it’s as simple as that. The numbers taking foreign languages has plunged to an all-time low, so I don’t see any bright future there, especially not for culture, as any increase in numbers driven by the government will be due to purely economic interests and these are usually towards the Anglophone. Today more than ever the poet’s saleable ‘profile’ is worth more than the actual poetry… what use is a poet influenced by the European tradition that Zweig was so immured in, who tries to communicate the relevance of European poets and have them share the table with the English canon, when the potential readership has little knowledge of or interest in their work and would be far more comfortable with another purely English dew-beaded nature poem, metropolitan nugget of irony, or to titter behind another ‘ode to a potato’? I have no doubt therefore that my forthcoming Selected Poems of famous Francophone Belgian poets Emile Verhaeren and Georges Rodenbach will be largely ignored, even though these are the first modern English translations of these poets to reach our shores.

Will Stone, English poet and translator, was born in 1966. His translation of Stefan Zweig’s travel writings Journeys is out now on Hesperus Press. His forthcoming poetry collection, Drawing in Ash, will be published in March 2011 (Salt Publishing). In 2008 his first poetry collection Glaciation, published by Salt, won the international Glen Dimplex Award for poetry. His selected translations of Georg Trakl To The Silenced (Arc Publications) was also widely acclaimed. A number of his translations were also selected for the Tate anthology of German Expressionist Poetry, Music While Drowning in 2003, the title of which is taken from a poem by Egon Schiele. He has collections of translations of the long-neglected Belgian poets Emile Verhaeren and Georges Rodenbach forthcoming with Arc. His reviews have appeared in the TLS, Guardian, Independent on Sunday, The London Magazine, Poetry Review and PN Review .

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, librettist and biographer. He wrote prolifically, and was closely acquainted with many of the leading artistic figures of his day, including Rilke, Gide and Thomas Mann. During his lifetime, his books (including Letters from an Unknown Woman, Amok, Confusion of Feelings, Beware of Pity and The Royal Game) were amongst the most widely-read, translated and critically acclaimed in the world. He committed suicide along with his wife after seeking refuge from the Second World War in Brazil.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011.