Zweig, Stefan

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Zweig, Stefan

Zweig, Stefan (shtĕfˈän) (tsvīk), 1881–1942, Austrian biographer, poet, and novelist. Born in Vienna of a well-to-do Jewish family, he was part of the humanitarian, pan-European, pacifist, and populist cultural circle that included Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss. Zweig's first works were poetry and a poetic drama, Jeremias (1917, tr. 1929), which expressed his passionately antiwar feelings. During the 1920s and 30s, Zweig was extremely popular, and he was the most widely translated writer in Europe. With the rise of National Socialism, his works were condemned throughout the German-speaking world. He fled into exile in 1934, emigrating first to England, then to New York. In 1941 he and his second wife went to Brazil, where, exiled from the vanished cosmopolitan Europe where he had flourished, they subsquently committed suicide.

Zweig's best-known works of fiction are Ungeduld des Herzens (1938, tr. Beware of Pity, 1939, repr. 2006) and Schachnovelle (1944, tr. The Royal Game, 1944). He also wrote many biographies, which were based on psychological interpretation. The subjects of these include Marie Antoinette, Erasmus, Mary Queen of Scots, Magellan, Balzac, Verlaine, and Freud. Zweig's historical perception is best seen in Sternstunden der Menschheit (1928, tr. The Tide of Fortune, 1940). Long out of fashion and largely out of print, Zweig's work experienced a resurgence of interest in the 21st cent. when several of his books were retranslated and reprinted.


See his autobiography (and his last book, completed 1941 in Brazil), The World of Yesterday (1942; tr. 1943, 2013) and his Collected Stories (tr. 2013); biographies by D. A. Prater (1972), E. Allday (1972), O. Matuschek (2011), and G. Prochnik (2014); V. Weidermann, Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, and the Summer before the Dark (2016).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Zweig, Stefan


Born Nov. 28, 1881, in Vienna; died Feb. 22, 1942, in Petrópolis, Brazil. Austrian writer.

Zweig studied Romance and Germanic philology at the universities of Vienna and Berlin. He did a great deal of traveling in Europe, Indochina, North America, and South America. In 1928 he visited the USSR and followed with interest the successes of the building of socialism. During World War I he adopted a pacifist position. He lived abroad from 1934, in Great Britain, the USA, and Brazil. Unable to bear separation from his native country and driven to despair because of the war, Zweig committed suicide.

In his collections of short stories Erstes Erlebnis (1911), Amok (1922), and Conflicts (1927), Zweig sought to penetrate the dark corners of psychology, portraying—sometimes with a touch of melodrama—the complex conflicts in the personal lives of his heroes. His social vision as a writer, however, was limited: his relation to the “little man” did not go beyond compassion and the condemnation of the ugliness of bourgeois mores. The novel Beware of Pity (1939) is similar in tone to his short stories.

An important place in Zweig’s work is occupied by his biographical novels, essays, and sketches. Although not always factually accurate and often arbitrary (sometimes even oversimplified) in describing the life and work of historical persons, such as Stendhal, L. N. Tolstoy, Freud, and Nietzsche, Zweig’s subjective biographies win one over with their inventiveness of critical thought, ability to re-create historical color, and understanding of the psychology of the creative personality. These traits can be seen in his essays about E. Verhaeren (1917) and R. Rolland (1921) and in the cycle of biographies Master Builders (1920–28). Zweig worked for about 30 years on a biography of Balzac, which was published in 1946. The abstractness of Zweig’s humanist views is especially evident in his memoirs, The World of Yesterday (published 1944), and in the collection of speeches, essays, and critical articles entitled Meetings With People, Books, and Cities (1937). His final flashes of faith in courage and the daring of human genius in the novels Conqueror of the Seas: The Story of Magellan (1938) and Americo (published 1942) could not resolve the crisis that for long had dominated Zweig’s work and world outlook.


Ausgewählte Werke, vols. 1–2. Düsseldorf, 1960.
St. Zweig, Fr. Zweig: Briefwechsel. Bern [1951].
R. Strauss, St. Zweig: Briefwechsel. [Frankfurt am Main] 1957.
M. Gorki, St. Zweig: Briefwechsel. Leipzig, 1971.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–12. Foreword by M. Gorky. Leningrad, 1928–32.
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–7. Moscow, 1963. (Introductory article by B. L. Suchkov.)


Lunacharskii, A. V. Foreword to Stefan Zweig, Sobr. soch., vol. 10. Leningrad [1932].
Fedin, K. Pisatel’, Iskusstvo, Vremia. Moscow, 1961.
Suchkov, B. L. Liki vremeni. Moscow, 1976.
Zweig, F. R. Stefan Zweig: Eine Bildbiographie. [Munich, 1961.]
Prater, D. A. European of Yesterday: A Biography of Stefan Zweig. Oxford, 1972.
Klawiter, R. J. Stefan Zweig: A Bibliography. Chapel Hill, N.C. [1965].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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