Stefan Zweig is one of those writers you may have heard of but never found the time to read. This is a shame, as works such as Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman are gripping and tinged with a melancholic verve. It’s no wonder one Wes Anderson based the glorious The Grand Budapest Hotel on Zweig’s works.
The Austrian author was hugely popular in the 1920s and 1930s, apparently, but the passage of time has dimmed his name and many contemporary readers across the globe will be unaware of his existence. Thanks to the aforementioned film, this has been somewhat rectified. Let us celebrate this fact by doing a book review!
Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman
These days, 24 hours in the life of a woman involves taking at least 1,000 Selfies and humble bragging on Facebook and Instagram about the results.
All this whilst flirting distantly with imbecilic online men who compliment those appropriately selected images with witticisms such as: “u look well fit babe” and “wuu2?” Innit.
100 years ago, things were about other stuff – the lack of similar technology ensured this! It’s a state of affairs reflected in this novella, which was published in 1927.
It’s a short and sharp piece of writing, make no mistake, with a mere 90 pages in our edition. You have no excuses, adults, this thing should be read when you’ve got a spare hour or two.
In some respects, it has similarities with Albert Camus’ The Fall, as it’s essentially a confession by the elderly Mrs C and the life she’s led. In particular, there’s a heavy focus on an incident she had with a young man at a casino.
The English widow comes across a borderline suicidal young Polish diplomat who seems hell-bent on wasting everything in Monte Carlo.
Disturbed by the young man’s predicament, and drawn into his life for reasons which she can’t explain, the trouble begins to grow as she learns more about him. It all plays out over the course of the day. The drama!
Zweig’s Other Works
If you’re new to Zweig, this little gem is a fine place to start. If you’re a Nazi, you’ll be interested to know Goebbels and company decided Zweig was an enemy of the state and ordered his works to be burned during cultural purges.
Thusly, this is a novella which defied the Nazis! Here we have access to it over 90 years later and it’s a joy to read. If anything, it’s a detailed psychological study of an incident which is played out with themes of loneliness, regret, and compassion. It defies its novella status by tackling such complex topics in one short work and this is why it’s to be celebrated.
His others works which may interest you include Amok (1922), Chess Story (1942), and Beware of Pity (1939 – part of the inspiration for the Grand Budapest Hotel).
Zweig died at the age of 60 in 1942 of an apparent double suicide with his wife – whilst he may be gone, one can at least still enjoy the work he gifted to the world. Which is, you know, just super.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Finally, there is the Wes Anderson film to watch if you’re a fan of this Zweig work. This novella was inspiration for the mainstream film industry’s quirkiest director. And the result is a modern classic from 2014 – what a charming and poignant film it is.