At 36 he’s part of the old set. Youth is in power and only the new and the destruction of the old is worthwhile. Yet look what passion and extremism led to. Is there not something to be said for the classic, Zweig’s way of life? If only the old guard had been more inclusive, it might have fared better. But empathy is always in short supply and those in power like to stay there, no matter their age or politics
He sums up the feelings of the so called ‘lost generation’ by saying they had felt cheated by the power and authority they had previously trusted. Here the full point of the book shines because he’s not just talking about himself, he’s talking about everyone.
“Something besides the army had been crushed: faith in the infallibility of the authority to which we had been trained to over-submissiveness in our own youth.”
The beer war is the funniest bit of the story. Strange, but a microcosm of the craziness of that time.
At one point some English unemployed took up residence in one of Salzburg’s finest hotels, the Hotel de l’Europe, because it was cheaper to live there than in their slum back home. And the foreigners, with their valuable foreign currency, bought everything “from toothbrushes to landed estates.”
He never mentions money because he has loads of it. He bought that beautiful (if falling apart) home in Salzburg. He also mentions “we” for the first time. Is he now married? (he finally mentions his wife, “my wife” at 4876, 64% of the way into the book.
I want to maintain respect and not overplay the comparison, but his ride in that bare and death smelly train with every improvement removed for the war reminds me of those who were packed in and sent to the camps not even 20 years later.
The shame of having lost the war, the imposed poverty, the banishment of their emperor, a housing shortage (homeless soldiers returning from the war) : you can begin to understand why WW2 happened.
“Now, we must help each other to get to Heaven” Emperor Karl said this to his wife the day after their marriage.
“It was the first instance in history, as far as I know, in which a country was saddled with an independence which it exasperatedly resisted.” Of course, this society was built to follow the social rules, now she’s adrift on a revolutionary sea.
“A system of some sort was killing him—Pierre—depriving him of life, of everything, annihilating him.” This quote holds true today where we live in a world where the moral responsibility of our decisions are removed, where there in no “human element” in our work, we only need to follow the law or the contract and the outcome, no matter how dire for someone else is not our responsibility.
“These questions, like questions put at trials generally, left the essence of the matter aside, shut out the possibility of that essence’s being revealed, and were designed only to form a channel through which the judges wished the answers of the accused to flow so as to lead to the desired result, namely a conviction.”
Dostoevsky and Kafka will explore this theme in great detail.
Being selfless means just that: being selfless. Maria, though she worries continually at being a sinner (which, like all of us, she is), acts selflessly, Sonia tries to be selfless but with the idea of being rewarded for it – that is not selfless behavior, it’s selfish and deceitful. Not that Sonia is a bad person, her circumstance of being only a cousin makes her an outsider at home so I do understand her
Again he doesn’t stop himself from fear of doing the wrong thing socially, he merely goes up to Maria in church and tells her that if Andrei had been killed it would have been announced. He only wishes to comfort her, and that trumps formality. And again, though she is in mourning, he still goes to her with his mother’s letter to tell her Andrei is alive. There is no fake society here, only the real Russian
“He felt that the being before him was quite different from, and better than, anyone he had met before, and above all better than himself.” I can’t think of a better way to describe the person you love.
“… in her presence he felt quite at ease, and said not at all what he had prepared, but what, quite appropriately, occurred to him at the moment.”
How simply he can explain love, unlike the French.