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Journey into the Past by Stefan Zweig
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Subscribe now. But also the language disappears and conveys real insight and atmosphere and psychological and emotional urgency and moral sense. Great stuff, Stefan -- too bad you snuffed yourself at 60! This edition sandwiches the long story with two excellent little biographical essays. Might read the story again since it's formally exemplary, I'd say.
Seems so simple and smooth and subtle without ever being elusive or arch or clever. Honest, respectful, deeply imagined urgency. Dec 25, Duane rated it really liked it Shelves: rated-books , reviewed-books , german , book-challenge. This book is a perfect example of why I love Goodreads so much. If not for the comments and reviews of GR friends, I would never have discovered this book or the author, Stefan Zweig. He died in and this book was unknown to English readers for decades after that. It is sparse in it's telling but so beautifully written.
It's the story of a love that goes to the depth of the soul, so deep that it consumes the heart and mind. But the passion is of the heart and mind only, because it is unfulfi This book is a perfect example of why I love Goodreads so much. But the passion is of the heart and mind only, because it is unfulfilled in the flesh. Once aware of their mutual feelings, they are seperated by an ocean, a war, and a decade of time. A beautiful gem of a book, 4. View 2 comments.
Aug 13, Suzy rated it it was amazing Shelves: underpp , memory-time , ww1 , classics , nyrb.
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I love books that play with memory and time; Zweig is a master in this book at portraying how our memories can create a reality of their own about the past, present and future. This is Ludwig's story, that of a smart but impoverished young man, being spotted and groomed by a leading German industrialist The Councillor and blossoming into a successful early adulthood.
It is also the story of his relationship with The Counc I love books that play with memory and time; Zweig is a master in this book at portraying how our memories can create a reality of their own about the past, present and future. It is also the story of his relationship with The Councillor's wife, whom he realizes he loves right before being sent to Mexico for 2 years on behalf of the company. When WWI breaks out, he is forced to stay longer and is absent from Germany for 9 years. Absence makes the heart grow fonder could be called the theme of this book, but "fonder" is a mild word given our main character Ludwig's idealization of the wife, their love, her love for him and his vision of what will happen when they meet again.
And meet again, they do. Their meeting is where our story begins when they are taking the evening express train to Heidelberg. We spend this train ride in Ludwig's head as he reminisces on his life, their relationship and what he has dreamed about so long. We are taken on a ride of memories, emotions and expectations, feeling this book as much as reading it.
Ludwig's interior conversation touches on things we can all relate to - the longing humans have for an idealized vision of life and love - even though the book was written almost years ago. In the introduction, author Andre Aciman describes Zweig's writing as fluent. I would add that his writing is fluid; fluid in the way he tells Ludwig's story and fluid in the way he plays with time in the structure of this beautifully written novella. Zweig packed a lot into 84 pages - nothing more and nothing less than what was needed to profoundly affect the reader.
Readers note: the aforementioned introduction at 22 pages practically tells us the entire story, not to mention how to view it! I recommend reading the book first and the introduction after. I wish I had been able to experience Journey Into the Past with fresh eyes. View all 11 comments. Apr 19, Michael rated it it was amazing Shelves: literature , aaa-top-translation , translation , aa-europelit , all-five-star , historicity , xshort-less , nyrb , aa-austrialit , zweig-stefan. View all 3 comments. May 09, Viji Bookish endeavors rated it really liked it Shelves: close-to-heart , stefan-zweig.
A journey back to reclaim something which he always wanted,something that had been left unfinished in the past. This is the story of a man who makes that journey. With the beautiful interplay of shadows,the continuos hugging and separating,he understands that what he wants to reclaim with his old love is something that they have left long back,one can't simply blind oneself to the present and pretend to be like nothing has happened.
He listens to the poem sung by his love long back and is stunne A journey back to reclaim something which he always wanted,something that had been left unfinished in the past. He listens to the poem sung by his love long back and is stunned when he realizes how that poem talks clearly about what they are going through, In the old park,in ice and snow caught fast Two spectres walk,still searching for the past He listens more intensely to the song,to the voice of his dear love,echoes from the time that was unstained by the present,and wonders whether that voice will speak to him again.
The story touched me in many ways. An interesting read,indeed. View all 5 comments. Beautiful writing. I really love Stefan Zweig's writing. It's simple yet eloquent and manages to convey intense meaning. I've been so impressed by his work, having so far read The Post Office Girl and Beware of Pity, both being exceptional reads.
It's taken me a while to pick up another book, in this case one of his later novellas, Journey Into the Past, but it's equally as remarkable and reminds me there are some authors who really should be shuffled to the top of the reading pile. Very briefly this is a story of I really love Stefan Zweig's writing. Very briefly this is a story of two lovers separated by time and distance and when once again are reunited must determine whether their initial longing survives or has been blunted by circumstances beyond their control.
I know a work should stand on its own, but in the case of Stefan Zweig, knowing something about him really enriches the reading of his books. In the s and 30s he was a popular and successful writer not just in Europe but abroad as well. Austrian by birth he came of age and was actively writing during a hugely fertile period in the arts and sciences. He was a contemporary and admirer of Freud and surely this must have informed his writing as there is always so much psychological insight to his characters' thoughts and motivations. According to the novel's translator, Anthea Bell, "An interest in exploring the interaction of mind, heart and body seems to have been in the air of Vienna at the time".
Zweig was an idealist and a pacifist and his strongly held ideas became even more fervent by the end of the First World War. Bell notes that while Zweig's personal life didn't influence his fiction, his beliefs do strongly come through in his writing most certainly in Journey Into the Past, which he began working on around By when Hitler became Chancellor Zweig knew which way the winds were blowing. He wrote to a friend, "My dear friend, I reply to you today, on May 10th He lived first in England, then in the US and finally settled in Brazil.
Very sadly he and his second wife committed suicide in In Journey Into the Past Ludwig is a poor tutor who is offered the job of private secretary to a wealthy industrialist. He rebuffs Councillor G's proposal that he should come and live with his family as he feels a sense of shame from his childhood spent in poverty.
He doesn't want to be a nameless somebody stuck between upstairs and downstairs, but eventually thanks to the failing health of the Councillor he relents. He falls for the Councillor's wife who is kind to him and makes him feel at ease and soon discovers that his feelings of attraction are reciprocated. When the Councillor asks him to travel to Mexico to direct a company there which will mine an important ore that has been discovered, he is at first flattered and eager to go, but it means separation from the woman he now loves.
No time can be lost and he must leave immediately as the discovery is so lucrative and can make not only the Councillor richer but Ludwig, too. So Ludwig agrees. It will only be for two years, which surely will be bearable. And then war breaks out and neither Ludwig nor his letters may cross the ocean. And then nine years later Ludwig finally has a chance to return to Germany. Life has in all ways continued, but he finds his passion has still not waned for this woman.
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I won't say more about the story and whether the two find their own happily ever after, but leave it up to you to read the story yourself. This is the second book I've read this month translated by Anthea Bell, who I think is a really marvelous translator. Happily she has translated a number of books by Zweig including Fear, which I am hoping to read this month as well. I found a really interesting interview with her here. As I was reading her afterword, and she was discussing the historical environment in which the book is set, she talks about the nuances she must be aware of and her translations must reflect them.
She also talks about this aspect of her work in the interview. I've always thought a good translation is one where I can't tell the book has been translated and she mentions that as well. She calls Zweig's writing style both meticulous and condensed, which makes his books a challenge to translate. She certainly does an admirable job in her translations of getting everything just right. I am assured however, in the foreword, that Zweig is actually a master of the conte--"the tale told by word of mouth or letter".
Nov 22, Vishy rated it it was amazing. This is my second Stefan Zweig book in a row. The story told in 'Journey into the Past' goes like this. A man and a woman meet after many years. There is warmth and friendliness and even sparks between them. They board a train and travel together. Their minds go back to the past. Once upon a time the man was poor. After working hard and getting himself an education, he ends up working in a company.
He works hard there and catch This is my second Stefan Zweig book in a row. He works hard there and catches the eye of the director who takes him under his wing and promotes him. At some point, as the director is keeping in poor health, he requests our hero to move into his spacious villa as a guest, so that it is easy for them to work together.
Our young man, after some initial resistance, agrees. He is sceptical about the move, because he hates rich people, in principle, because they make him feel poor, even more. But then he meets the director's wife who treats him with respect and removes all such negative thoughts from his mind.
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Before long a beautiful friendship develops between our young man and the director's wife which later blossoms into love. But suddenly one day, the director recommends the young man for a new project in Mexico and the lovers are parted. He hopes to come back after two years and she waits for him. But then as they say, the best laid plans go awry. When our young man tries to return back, news breaks out that a big war has started.
How things pan out after that and how this man and woman end up meeting again and what happens between them form the rest of the story. I like the way the story moves between the past and the present. We know that the two main characters are sitting next to each other in a train and they are travelling towards a potentially happy ending are they? I also loved the part of the story which talks about the young man's poverty and how he works hard to get out of it and how he hates rich people for treating him like an inferior and how he guards his freedom fiercely.
All these are beautifully portrayed. I loved the character of the director's wife. She was my favourite character in the book - kind, beautiful, elegant, strong. The war that the book talks about is probably the Second World War. This is interesting, because towards the end of the book, we are shown that the war is over, but interestingly, the Nazi party has survived.
This is interesting because Stefan Zweig didn't survive the war. He died in when the war was still in full swing. He imagined an end to the war which was very different from what actually happened. That pessimistic imagination is probably what most people believed would happen, during those dark days of the war. It is hard to imagine the bleak atmosphere that must have prevailed at that time. The ending of the story was interesting - it was open-ended with things unsaid and what happens is left to the reader's imagination. I can't imagine what happened, because every ending I think of, has some unhappiness for one of the characters.
I loved 'Journey into the Past'. It is a beautiful love story set during an interesting time. It is vintage Zweig. I can't wait to read my next Zweig story now. I will leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book. Something had to be said, something must overcome that silence to keep it from overwhelming them - they both felt it. What do you think about it? Ludwig begins a passionate affair with the wife of his employer but is relocated shortly after by the company to work in Mexico for two years.
World War One begins and those two years stretch to much longer until Ludwig forgets her and moves on, meets someone new and starts a family of his own. As the two try to connect after years apart, will they find their love remains or has it gone forever? It is difficult to say anything about Stefan Zweig that has not already been said, except to wonder if he had not committed suicide at sixty, what further finely polished gems he might have produced. Journey into the Past is a novella.
A perfectly faceted gem of a book. Zweig traces the relationship between its protagonists with care and delicacy. There is a certain autobiographical ring to some of the scenes, and his preoccupation with psychology is evident - as befits a Viennese. Read and enjoy It is difficult to say anything about Stefan Zweig that has not already been said, except to wonder if he had not committed suicide at sixty, what further finely polished gems he might have produced. Read and enjoy. I love Zweig's writing he never disappoints.
His prose flows, his stories are always powerful, clever and intimate in beautiful ways. I wish there was more though. This could have been an entire novel and I wish it had been because I would've read it all the same. That's probably the reason why it didn't blew me away, I didn't have time to deeply care for the caracters as I think I would have if I had more time with them.
But it is the general issue with short stories isn't it May 09, Rise rated it it was amazing. Journey Into the Past is a well written novella about love tested by years of physical separation. It reminds me of Henry James in the depiction of inner passions and conflicts, but with a more fast paced and electric prose. Not to say that James is less intense, but his is a kind of cold intensity that withers a flower in a single glance. Stefan Zweig's intensity is a fever-pitch evocation of desire and disappointment.
Ludwig, a man of humble beginnings, fell in love with his employer's wife, an Journey Into the Past is a well written novella about love tested by years of physical separation. Ludwig, a man of humble beginnings, fell in love with his employer's wife, and she with him. They recognized their strong feelings for each other on the eve of Ludwig's departure abroad. He was sent overseas, in Mexico, to oversee a mining venture, a rare chance for him to improve his lot in life.
The job will cost him two years away from Germany. Before his departure the lovers came to an understanding that they will renew their relationship when he returns to Germany. After two years, when he was just about ready to come home, the first world war broke out and transport to Europe was cut off. Like James, class distinction between characters hangs like an oppressive weight. Early in the book the narrator Ludwig contemplates his new opulent surroundings, the house of his employer where he was asked to live: All he had brought with him, even he himself in his own clothes, shrank to miserable proportions in this spacious, well-lit room.
His one coat, ridiculously occupying the big, wide wardrobe, looked like a hanged man; his few washing things and his shabby shaving kit lay on the roomy, marble-tiled wash-stand like something he had coughed up or a tool carelessly left there by a workman; and instinctively he threw a shawl over the hard, ugly wooden trunk, envying it for its ability to lie in hiding here, while he himself stood inside these four walls like a burglar caught in the act. In vain he tried to counter his ashamed, angry sense of being nothing by reminding himself that he had been specifically asked for, pressingly invited to come.
But the comfortable solidity of the items around him kept demolishing his arguments. He felt small again, insignificant, of no account in the face of this ostentatious, magnificent world of money, servants, flunkeys and other hangers-on, human furniture that had been bought and could be lent out. It was as if his own nature had been stolen from him. Being a member of the lower class "His one coat The book is characterized by this kind of inner speech, where the protagonist blurts out his emotional and mental angsts.
Ludwig's stream of feelings is in constant flux, undergoing metamorphosis. His self-awareness is fueled by suddenness, by uninhibited epiphanies. She shone down from another sphere, beyond desire, pure and inviolable, and even in his most passionate dreams he did not venture so far as to undress her. In boyish confusion, he loved the fragrance of her presence, appreciating all her movements as if they were music, glad of her confidence in him and always fearing to show her any of the overwhelming emotion that stirred within him, an emotion still without a name but long since fully formed and glowing in its place of concealment.
But love truly becomes only love when, no longer an embryo developing painfully in the darkness of the body, it ventures to confess itself with lips and breath. This is part of a longer passage sketching Ludwig's acknowledgment, at first, of a chaste love. The chrysalis in his mind is getting more desperate to get out and express its wings. He is conscious of his desiring yet its unfolding yields surprise. And yet love is not only the kind of feeling that arouses Ludwig.
It is but part and parcel of his strong sensitivities, his always startled recognitions.
Journey Through History
This passage comes right after his employer the Councillor offered him a new lucrative job, the job that will improve his station in life. Then he had left the Councillor's study, still heated by the swirl of figures, reeling at the idea of the possibilities that had been conjured up, and once outside the door he stood staring wildly around him for a moment, wondering if the entire conversation could have been a phantasmagoria conjured up by wishful thinking.
The space of a wingbeat had raised him from the depths into the sparkling sphere of fulfillment; his blood was still in such turmoil after so stormy an ascent that he had to be in control again, sensing his inner being more powerfully and as if separated from himself. This is reminiscent of a passage in The Wings of the Dove : "One had only to admit that her complaint was in fact but the excess of the joy of life, and everything did then fit. It was her portrait. The lightning singed his wings. This is a pretty intense book, and what makes it intense is the fluid flow of the prose.
The book is to be read aloud so as to savor the sentences, the lyricism, and the sentiments. Anthea Bell's translation captured the live-wire intensity of Zweig's poetry and the Jamesian lucidity of perception. The second half of the book is where the "journey into the past" takes place, though every bittersweet journey here is already some kind of journey into the past. The present is always filtered by what happened in the past. Very aptly, the novella is in the past tense. The intimations of a new war in real time is in the past continuous.
And even Ludwig's present thoughts are referred to in relation to the past: "The past always comes between us, the time that has gone by. May 15, Cyndie rated it liked it Shelves: nyrb. I wanted to know why the reference was made. The Sense of an Ending is concerned with the inexact nature of memory. What i found in this particular novella was a dreamy and sad reflection upon the swift movement of time and lives and the deep unspoken nature of a doomed love.
Written about European characters of the early 20th century it holds that melancholic tone that encompasses the I read this book because its author, Stefan Zweig, was referenced in 'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes. Written about European characters of the early 20th century it holds that melancholic tone that encompasses the darkness and loss of two horrific wars. It doesn't concern itself with that big picture though - it is a tiny miniature of two people who fall deeply in love despite insurmountable impediments.
The reward in reading this is the discovery of an author who commands an ability to describe forbidden emotions in a lost manner bordering on but never succumbing to waves of melodrama. Feb 15, Marija rated it really liked it Shelves: modern-classics. The story is beautifully rendered, telling a tale that is true to life. Love is often times portrayed as something entirely beautiful—all flowers and roses. Yet, love could also be viewed as something selfish, especially when considering circumstances, situation, and time.
In this story, Zweig constructs an excellent balance. The love shared by the two main characters is something beautiful and lustrous, yet it becomes almost too brilliant, a love in danger of becoming all consuming. Because this is a novella, each sentence is significant, and words are never wasted. This is truly an excellent book. Jul 03, M. Sarki rated it liked it. I was expecting a bit of a wilder experience with this title based on my first exposure to Zweig with his novella Confusion.
It was still a good reading experience, but one I am sure will rank much lower than than most as I continue on with my new study of Stefan Zweig. The other problem I had with this book was its being written much earlier on in Zweig's writing career and a segment had already been published in an earlier form, but Zweig was never satisfied with it. He continued to work on th I was expecting a bit of a wilder experience with this title based on my first exposure to Zweig with his novella Confusion.
He continued to work on the novella for years and never did publish it in total. Of course, Zweig died by his own hand, taking the life of his young wife with him. But the hunger by fans of Zweig for any additional work they might read pressured our capitalists to finally present this book to the reading public. My position is, and always has been, that these unfinished works should stay in the libraries in manuscript form and not be produced as a finished product for the simple reason that Zweig did not wish this to be.
If he had, he would have given it to his publisher before he offed himself and his lover. But that is me, and what do I know?
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