Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig

journey into the past

Journey into the past by Stefan Zweig

Austrian fiction

Original title –  Widerstand der Wirklichkeit

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source – Personnel copy

I couldn’t do two weeks about Pushkin press without at least once reviewing or mentioning Stefan Zweig ,as he is the writer most associated with them in my mind anyway .I have perviously reviewed his books Letter to an Unknown women   and although not published by Pushkin press the post office girl .I have also read Amok for this fortnight .In my mind Zweig is a true one-off writer that thanks to Pushkin we have gotten to read in English .At the height of his fame in the 1920’s and 1930’s he was one of the best known writers in the world .This is one of a number of books by Stefan Zweig that is published by Pushkin press .

“There you are !” He went to meet her with arms outstretched , almost flung wide.”There you are ” he repeated , his voice climbing the scale from surprise to delight ever more clearly ,while his tender glance lingered on her beloved form “I was almost afraid you wouldn’t come !”

“Do you really have so little faith in me ? ”

Ludwig arrives and meets the woman in the opening lines

So too the Journey into the past was only discovered in the seventies and published in the Germany .Ludwig is German engineer and in love with a women whom happens to be married ,but he is sent for a short trip to Mexico to work on opening a mine ,but whilst he is doing this the first world war breaks out leaving him stranded in Mexico .We see him recalling the past as he returns to see if his love is still there what has happened to her .As he travels back to his homeland the memories of their  past  as they await meeting again on the station . The narrative drifts through time past and present mingle .

They left the station , but no sooner were they out of the door than stormy noise met their ears , drums rattling , the shrill sound of pipes – it was a patriotic demonstration of veterans  associations and students in support of the Fatherland .Like a wall on the move ,marching in ranks four abreast ,flags flying ,men in military garb were goose stepping along ,feet thudding heavily on the ground .

The early signs of the Nazis and Ludwig and the woman leave the station .

Well this was a book that supposedly Zweig had worked and reworked this novella for over twenty years ,you can see how it has been cut and edited at just 81 pages it actually feels more like a 300 page novel than a short novella .Zweig has left fact bare and concentrated on the feeling ,memories and broken love  and dreams .Ludwig was a different character than I had previously encountered in Zweig works as in the previous book I have read he has mainly used female characters .I loved the sense of lose and longing we got from Ludwig a man caught by time ,the woman isn’t named we know she is married to a councillor so is maybe an older muse for the young Ludwig whom is in his mid twenties .You also see the changing times and how Zweig worked more recent times into the narrative like the fact when Ludwig arrives back there is a nazi parade taking place almost a small signpost to the future events that drew Austria into the second world war .If you love a tale of lost dreams and loves and longing this is one that you will love .

Have you read Zweig ,if so which is you favourite book ?

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Feb 19, 2014 @ 10:33:13

    I’ve read this Zweig and Letter from and Unknown Woman – and I think that story was my favourite so far.


  2. MarinaSofia
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 10:38:35

    Had a real fixation on Zweig during my teens, but haven’t reread him in years. Liked his 3 novellas published as ‘Verwirrung der Gefuhle’ (Confusion of Feelings? don’t know if or how it has been translated into English) and the Chess novella also lingers in my mind. But Letter from an Unknown Woman, Fear and Beware of Pity I also liked. I think nowadays he is considered too melodramatic, or even sentimental.


  3. Max Cairnduff
    Feb 21, 2014 @ 16:23:58

    Anthea Bell’s a translator I watch out for.

    My favourite of his is Burning Secret, which features a young boy as protagonist. CHess I really thought was just melodramatic and not very good. I’m in a minority on that I know. There’s reviews of both at mine.

    I haven’t read this one yet Stu, but I own a copy so I shall at some point. Zweig’s been good for Pushkin, he still has a certain bestseller quality.


  4. Lisa Hill
    Feb 22, 2014 @ 01:21:15

    Hi Stu, I’ve finished reading Amok for your Pushkin Press Fortnight, and my review is here:
    Thank you for introducing me to another new author in translation:)


  5. Tony
    Feb 27, 2014 @ 01:40:36

    Haven’t read this one, but I’m due to try a few more more having loved the two I’ve read so far (‘Chess’ and ‘Fear’). I’m sure I’m due a virtual trip to the Book Depository soon… 😉


  6. Trackback: That was the month that was February 2014 | Winstonsdad's Blog
  7. Emma
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 20:19:34

    This is my favourite Zweig so far.


  8. Trackback: Anthea Bell RIP | Winstonsdad's Blog

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February 2014


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