Saturday, November 28, 2015

Born Today November 28: Stefan Zweig


Born in Vienna in then what was the Austro-Hungarian empire, Zweig was a prolific writer of short stories, novels and plays; he was also a biographer and journalist.  He was the son of wealthy Austrian Jews. By the 1920's he was at the height of his career.  The first film made from one of his novels was released in 1923 in Germany:  Das brennende Geheimnis.  In all, 6 films were released based on his material in the 1920's, all them silent and all of them in German.  The first sound film based on another of his novels was released in 1931, also in Germany.  After Hitler's rise to power in 1934 Zweig fled to England, understanding early on the Nazi threat to German and Austrian Jewish people.  While there, penned a libretto for composer Richard Strauss. When Strauss refused to remove Zweig's name from the program, Joseph Goebbels refused to attend its premiere performance as he planned to do.  The opera was then banned after 3 performances.  The work in question is Die schweigsame Frau (or The Silent Woman), and the year was 1935.  From England, where he actually became a British citizen, Zweig immigrated to Brazil with his second wife fearing that the UK would fall to Germany; an irony, as this became one of the destinations that Nazi German war criminals managed to flee to after the fall of Berlin.  Films are still being made from his source material, the most recent of which is a film that has been announced The Week Before.  He and his wife found themselves living in an village  on the the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro colonized by Germans--there they faced more and more racism.  He penned a note about being very depressed by the situation; he and his wife were found dead on the 23rd of February, it assumed they died the day before of barbiturate overdose.  They were found holding hands.  He was 60 years old.  Their home there was turned into a cultural museum due to his huge collection of rare books and manuscripts, it is known as Casa Stefan Zweig.  

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