Stefan and Lotte Zweig's South American Letters

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Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date
5.6 X 8.5 X 0.8 inches | 0.9 pounds
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About the Author

Stefan Zweig, novelist, essayist, biographer, dramatist and pacifist, was born in Vienna in 1881 into a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. In the 1920s and 30s Zweig enjoyed great literary fame and was one of the most translated authors in the world. With the rise of Nazism, Zweig moved to England where, in 1940, he became a British subject. Following a lecture tour of South America and a period in New York, he moved to Brazil where in 1942, in despair at the future of Europe, he and his wife committed suicide. Lotte Zweig (nee Altmann) was born in 1908 into a middle-class family of merchants in the Prussian city of Kattowitz. Soon after Hitler gained power in Germany, she moved to London. In 1934 Lotte was employed by Stefan Zweig as a multilingual secretary and research assistant. They married in 1939 and the following year left their home in Bath for the Americas. Darien J. Davis is Associate Professor of history at Middlebury College, Vermont, USA. He has written on race, migration and twentieth century intellectual and cultural history. Oliver Marshall is an independent historian based in Sussex, England, who has published on South American and international migration history. He has been a research fellow at the University of London's Institute of Latin American Studies and at the University of Oxford's Centre for Brazilian Studies and its Centre for Latin American Studies.


"Based on hitherto unknown personal correspondence of Stefan and Lotte Zweig, this thought-provoking and magisterial work of literary-historical scholarship offers a rare blending of clarity, psychological insight, and meticulous research. Refreshing, vastly informative, and stunning in its revelations, this exemplary biographical account is an indispensable standard for many fields." Prof. Jeffrey B. Berlin, co-editor of Stefan Zweig - Friderike Zweig: Briefwechsel 1912-1942 (2006); Stefan Zweig: Briefe 1897-1942. 4 vols. (1995-2005); Stefan Zweig: Briefwechsel mit Bahr, Freud, Rilke und Schnitzler (1987), all published by S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt a/M.
"These intimate, familial and war-haunted letters from Stefan and Lotte Zweig throw a new light on their South American years, and their last, tragic act. The informative and insightful introductory texts provided by Oliver Marshall and Darien J. Davis additionally illuminate the complex feelings both Zweigs had about their exile a condition which they chose, but did not survive. A worthwhile addition to the annals of literary history during the darkest of Europe's periods." Eva Hoffman, author of Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language (Penguin) and After Such Knowledge (PublicAffairs).
"Davis and Marshall have filled a gap in Latin American literary history by presenting us with a picture of the last years of the famed author, cast adrift by the rise of Nazism and enforced exile. The letters of Stefan and Lotte Zweig cast a flickering light on the psyches of many Austrian and German Jews who, rejected by their homelands, were incapable of either adapting to a new home or of drawing sustenance from their Jewish origins. Aloof from the satisfactions of popular acclaim and paralyzed by guilt over their comfortable life in Brazil, the Zweigs broke through their emotional isolation with an act that sealed their unique place in literary history. Davis and Marshall create a coherent narrative from the episodic correspondence and bring the role of Lotte into view. But the Zweigs' brief sojourn in South America confirms the European boundaries to Stefan's oevre and his marginalization from Argentine, Brazilian, and Jewish history." Judith Laikin Elkin, Latin American Jewish Studies Association
"Among the many merits of this compelling, carefully edited volume is the insight it provides into a problem confronting all refugees from Nazidominated Europe: How might one begin conceiving a new vision of home while 'the old country' went up in flames? They also tell the melancholy story of how, barely a year after the euphoric Bahia letter, Stefan and Lotte committed suicide in Petropolis, above Rio." Jewish Review of Books
"Stefan Zweig's second wife, the much younger Lotte Altmann, has been a shadowy figure until now- a dutiful secretary to the great writer, but not much more. In this valuable collection of the letters they wrote from South America in the last two years of their tragically curtailed lives, she emerges as a woman of real human warmth and spirit. Future biographers will find this book essential to their understanding of a man driven to depression by the fact that lofty ideals of universal peace cannot be sustained in the face of a tyranny such as Nazism." Paul Bailey, author of Uncle Rudolf: A Novel (Fourth Estate, 2002), and recipient of the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academic of Arts and Letters
"Davis and Marshall offer a rare glimpse into the lives of the prolific author Stefan Zweig and his second wife, Lotte, through a collection of personal letters. [...] The editors present the vital historical knowledge of not only the infamous couple, but also the growing political turmoil that would escalate into WWII, illuminated in part by the organization of the correspondence here. Though written mostly to Lotte's brother and sister-in-law, the letters reveal a growing depression and a lack of contact with friends and family, illuminating both the general hopelessness common to that era and the importance of a sense of belonging." Publishers Weekly
.".. provides a detailed epistolary account of the life and times of one of Europe's preeminent intellectuals. [...] Ultimately, Stefan and Lotte Zweig's South American Letters reads as a cruel story of dislocation and despair: from their arrival in Rio de Janeiro to their dual-suicide in Petropolis two years later, the Zweigs were unable to relinquish themselves of the knowledge that the people of Europe once 'pleasant and cultured' were engaged in an endless conflict for racial and territorial supremacy. Through it all, however, the Zweigs continued to write, approaching their correspondence as a form of therapy one which allowed them, rather like the tortured characters of W. G. Sebald or Joseph Roth, to come to terms with what Stefan referred to in 1942 as the 'incertainty and isolation' of war. Their pact complete, the Zweigs succumbed to their desolation and to the desolation of a generation robbed of its homeland." Rain Taxi
"This is a rich, rewarding, and exciting contribution to our understanding of the final years in the life of Stefan and Lotte Zweig based on letters they wrote and received in their South American refuge from Nazism. It is also the first collection to bring to light Lotte's long-neglected epistolary voice and the central role that she played during this South American period in helping to bring to light some of her husband's greatest and most significant literary and autobiographical works." Leo Spitzer, author of Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism, Lives in Between: Assimilation and Marginality in Austria, Brazil, West Africa, and most recently, Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory.
"Biographical research has already given us quite a good deal of insight into Stefan Zweigs and his second wife Lottes course of life, about their years in exile, about their voluntary death in February 1942 in Brazil. And yet there is still a lot that we do not know. Stefan and Lotte Zweigs letters from their last two years, now published in a selection for the first time, give us a clear view of their living conditions. Never before has this been made possible in such immediacy. Now we can read these intimate letters which allow us to witness both of them at such close range and with a familiarity as has never been achieved before. These letters are as much a fascinating record of domestic felicity as they are a document of a world-historical tragedy. Finally, and for the very first time, Lotte Zweig is given a distinct voice of her own. And what we have surmised for so long turns out not to be true: the image of the shy and sickly wife, always resigned and submissive to her husband, is completely wrong. This is a thoroughly engaging and really touching book. One will not put these letters aside before having read them all through. It will be of utmost importance for future biographical research about the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte." Klemens Renoldner, Director of Stefan Zweig Centre, University Salzburg, Austria
"These letters help to prove that definitive biographies do not exist." Alberto Dines, author of Morte no Paraiso - A Tragedia de Stefan Zweig (1981, 2004; Portuguese) and Tod im Paradies Die Tragodie des Stefan Zweig (2006; German).
These moving letters reveal the fragility of a sensitive couple tragically caught between an imposing past and an uncertain future.--Sanford Lakoff