Stefan Zweig

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Stefan Zweig (November 28, 1881 – February 22, 1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most famous writers in the world.[2]



Zweig was the son of Moritz Zweig (1845–1926), a wealthy Jewish textile manufacturer, and Ida Brettauer (1854–1938), from a Jewish banking family. Joseph Brettauer did business for twenty years in Ancona, Italy, where his second daughter Ida was born and grew up, too. Zweig studied philosophy at the University of Vienna and in 1904 earned a doctoral degree with a thesis on "The Philosophy of Hippolyte Taine". Religion did not play a central role in his education. "My mother and father were Jewish only through accident of birth", Zweig said later in an interview. Yet he did not renounce his Jewish faith and wrote repeatedly on Jewish themes. Although his essays were published in the Neue Freie Presse, whose literary editor was the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, Zweig was not attracted to Herzl's Jewish nationalism.

Stefan Zweig was related to the Czech writer Egon Hostovský. Hostovský described Zweig as "a very distant relative"[3]; some sources describe them as cousins.

In the First World War Zweig served in the Archives of the Ministry of War, and soon acquired a pacifist stand like his friend Romain Rolland, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature 1915. Zweig remained pacifist all his life and advocated the unification of Europe. Like Rolland, he wrote many biographies. His Erasmus of Rotterdam he called a "concealed self-portrayal" in The World of Yesterday.

Zweig fled Austria in 1934, following Hitler's rise to power in Germany. He then lived in England (in London and from 1939 in Bath) before moving to the United States in 1940. In 1941 he went to Brazil, where in 1942 he and his second wife Charlotte Elisabeth Altmann committed suicide together in Petrópolis.[4][5] He had been despairing at the future of Europe and its culture. "I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearing a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth", he wrote.

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