Widerstand der Wirklichkeit
Weeks passed when nothing I read satisfied. Everything I picked up failed to engage my attention. Was it ennui? Lack of attention? Resistance to reality? Or is it simply more difficult to find something interesting these days? My standards are not impossibly high. The work must be literary, well written, and engaging. That shouldn’t be difficult, should it? But less and less I find these qualities merged in works of fiction.
But then Stefan Zweig saved me.
It was a small story that did it, his novella Journey into the Past (Widerstand der Wirklichkeit), in which a younger man and older woman who have been desperately in love for nine years are reunited. Recently published in the United States by NYRB, it is a lovely work of art, made all the more interesting by the effete, cultured, and tragic life of the man who wrote it, perhaps the best German writer of his time.
To fill up space, an Introduction was added and an Afterword. Amusingly, the Introduction not only contains spoilers but includes the entire plot of the novella. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter. Zweig is so brilliant that I found myself reading the story with rapt attention even though I knew everything that would happen.
Why Zweig and his second wife committed suicide together in Brazil is a mystery (even though he left suicide note). The leading theory is that he could not stand to live in a world destroyed by the barbarism of Hitler. I understand such logic (there should have been mass suicides after Bush was appointed President by the Supreme Court), but deplore his decision.
What happened to the two lovers? you wonder. Well, hell, you’ll just have to read the novella and find out.