On Stefan Zweig

When I first read The World of Yesterday in the early ’70s I had a naive youngster’s response to Zweig’s heartbreaking, tragic story — both in his book and his life. “How sad he and his wife committed suicide in 1942 when things looked bleakest. If he had just held on, I’m sure he would have lived long enough to sense that the world was stumbling forward in the direction he wanted.”

Now that I know some actual exiles, I much more appreciate and understand Zweig’s inescapable hollow feelings. And now that I’m five years older than he was at the end, I comprehend how the promise of a vanished future can haunt you, and even change your life. I had more than one dear friend who, consciously or not, destroyed themselves after the early ’80s made it obvious that the dreams of the ’60s and ’70s were dashed for good.

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