The Society of the Crossed Keys

There’s been a huge amount of buzz about Stefan Zweig since the release of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film greatly influenced by his work. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t read any of his stuff before seeing the film and this book certainly struck me as a good place to start.

This collection from Pushkin Press features Wes Anderson’s selection of Zweig’s writing and includes an interview with him about the extent of the influence. He took many of the ideas expressed or explored in the film directly from Zweig’s work, with a number of characters in the film modelled on the man himself.

The extract from The World of Yesterday sees him describing being brought up in a time he calls the Golden Age of Security, the years before the First World War. In spite of all that happens after the beginning of the war he holds optimism for upward progression.

He paints Vienna as a wonderfully cosmopolitan place, its people more concerned with cultural matters than other topics. He’s grateful to Vienna for the fact that learnt early to love the idea of community as the highest ideal and is grateful to his father for giving him his sense of inner freedom. His thoughts and memories are magnificently conveyed and I certainly want to read on to spend more time with this great man.

Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman is published in full and is a total joy to read. It tackles the emotions that can run through a person in a short space of time, the willingness to gamble our lives, money and love. The endless cycle of addiction is here, the expressions of a gambler, the signs of hope and the dreadful loss.

The section from Beware of Pity was all too short. I flew throught this part of the collection, the wonderful description of a dinner party and the joy of music was the first sight I’d got of his fiction wrting and it really swept me away.

This is a beautiful collection and it served as a great introduction to Stefan Zweig’s work. Now that I’ve started, I’m very keen to get hold of everything that’s ever been published.

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