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Stefan Zweig’s last days in exile in America -“Vor Der Morgenroete”

Stefan Zweig has been the subject of new interest in recent years. Two new biographies have appeared quite recently and in addition his friendship with Joseph Roth has been the subject of fierce debate after an article in The London Review of Books by Michael Hoffmann. “Ostende. 1936, Sommer Der Freundschaft” by Volker Weidermann is a magnificent read on this relationship and the plight of exiles from Nazi Germany was published just last year and has been translated into English as “Summer before the Dark, Ostend Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth;Ostend 1936“(Reviews may be read at )It was also Radio4’s Book of the week. The Sunday Times, for instance, said of this book;
‘For such a slim book to convey with such poignancy the extinction of a generation of “Great Europeans” is a triumph’.SZ However Zweig’s life experiences also formed the background and leitmotif for the zany film and also a book by Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel. One reader comments, “I also feel like I owe this movie a great deal, in that it turned me on to the works of Stefan Zweig, master Austrian storyteller, and my new favorite author”

The new film just screening in Germany is called “Vor der Morgenroete” and features Josef Hader as Stefan Zweig and is produced by the actress, Maria Schrader who recently played a prominent role in the Channel 4 series, Deutschland 83.SZ2Vor der Morgenröte Plakat web_1

The film consists of  episodes from the life of the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig in exile. At the height of his worldwide fame, he is driven to emigrate and grows desperate in the face of knowledge of the downfall of Europe, which like Roth he already attempts to forsworn his fellow European intellectuals. This then is the story of a refugee, the story of the loss of the old world of the Hapsburg K und K and the search for a new home in America.SZ3

Stefan Zweig was a renowned  author German together with Thomas Mann the most translated in his time. Already in 1934, Zweig left his native Austria to go into exile from which he did not return. In her compelling and sensual opulent film Maria Schrader shows the world-famous author in six episodes from his life; his first stay in Brazil and the participation in the P.E.N.-Congress in Buenos Aires in 1936 about visiting New York City and his first wife Friderike in 1941 until his death in 1942 in Petrópolis. There, Zweig wrote his famous work “The Chess Game“. Josef Hader shines in the title role of the famous Austrian writer and pacifist Stefan Zweig. Barbara Sukowa as his first wife Friderike, also gave a convincing performance. Another strong impression was given by Aenne Schwarz as Zweig’s delicate and alluring second wife.

The film impressed me on several different levels. In 2015,I had visited in Munich, the following exhibition which showed much of the material, Zweig had collected and details of his first trips to America- It is clear that despite the recognition of his fame, Zweig found it difficult to settle in America;either in New York or in Yale or later in Brazil. (Verloren war die Welt von Gestern.) Yesterday’s world had disappeared, the Hotel Metropole in Vienna was now a Gestapo headquarters. Notably in Die Welt von Gestern, he noted how money came so readily to the Brownshirts and living in Salzberg he knew just how the racist menace grew. Sadly there are parallels with today and as Zweig remarked, Wer die Vergangenheit nicht versteht, versteht nichts wirklich. 


By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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