Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 18, 2016

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 2:20 pm

The Radical Internationalism of Stefan Zweig


Poorly served by Wes Anderson in the “The Grand Budapest Hotel” as a comic-opera figure in line with the director’s overripe pastel-colored sense of whimsy, Stefan Zweig now reappears in a thoughtful and dramatically compelling new film titled “Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe” that is Austria’s Official Academy Awards Entry for Best Foreign Language film. It will certainly garner my vote for the New York Film Critics Online awards meeting in early December.

Directed by Maria Schrader who co-wrote the script with Jan Schomburg, it is structured as a five-act drama with each act centered on a pivotal moment in Zweig’s life in exile, all but one taking place in Latin America where he still enjoyed a lofty reputation. For Zweig, the 30s were an ordeal both for being forced into exile from his beloved Vienna and for having to deal with a painful reality that literary fashion had passed him by.

Despite a certain Zweig revival that counts me and CounterPunch editor Jeff St. Clair as standard bearers, the critical establishment today would likely agree with earlier critics who found Zweig far inferior to Thomas Mann, the only German-language author to exceed him in sales. For example, Michael Hoffman treated him contemptuously in the pages of the London Review of Books:

Stefan Zweig just tastes fake. He’s the Pepsi of Austrian writing. He is the one whose books made films – 18 of them, and that’s the books, not the films (which come in at a stupefying 38). It makes sense: these are hypothetical and bloodless and stiltedly extreme monuments and monodramas for ‘teenagers of all ages’, as someone said, books composed for the bourgeoisie to give itself culture or a fright, which needed Hollywood or UFA to make them real, to give them expressions, faces, bodies, rooms and dialogue; and to drain some of the schematic grand guignol out of them.

As is so often the case, when a novelist writes for the public rather than the critical establishment, there will be such disapproval.

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  1. […] über Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe — Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist […]

    Pingback by Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe — Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist | psychosputnik — November 18, 2016 @ 8:11 pm

  2. Dear Mr. Proyect,

    Thanks for alerting me to the trailer of the Zweig film/. The trailer depicted a scene about the 1936 Barcelona Writers’ Congress. You might be interested to know that a book about the 1935 Paris antifascist writers’ congress is about to be published by Legenda (Oxford). However, you won’t find it listed on their website as yet since it’s being overhauled. The title of the book is Writers’ Block: The Paris Antifiascist Congress of 1935 by Jacob Boas.

    Jacob Boas (another unrepentant Marxist)

    Comment by Jacob Boas — November 19, 2016 @ 8:31 pm

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