One of my favorite Twitter feeds over the past few months has been George Prochnik’s (here). Prochnik is the author of a new biography of Stefan Zweig, entitled The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, and on his Twitter feed he has been sharing photos, Zweig’s alligator shoes, letters, and other documents from Zweig’s life. There is an outline Zweig made for his “Brazil book,” a contract with the American publisher Viking dated just 11 days before Zweig’s suicide, letters to friends about the state of the world. Following Prochnik on Twitter has meant daily doses from the fascinating life of Zweig, and it also shows just how much information Prochnik had in his hands as he wrote The Impossible Exile.
The biography itself is not necessarily a traditional biography. Rather, it focuses on the few years Zweig spent exiled in Brazil, where he eventually committed suicide with his wife, Lotte — who also appears frequently in Prochnik’s Twitter feed. It also looks at the theme of exile in general, using these wonderful primary sources.
Zweig is a favorite, ever since I first encountered him via his novella Chess Story, one of the first books I reviewed on this blog back in 2008. I’ve loved everything of his I’ve read. In fact, an upcoming Mookse and Gripes podcast is going to be dedicated to some of his work.
His life is also very interesting and sad. As one of the world’s most famous novelists, he experienced years basking in a kind of glory. And then: disaster. The world he grew up in vanished in an instant, overcome by brutality, sending him into exile, ultimately to Brazil, and to his decision to take his own life in February 1942.
I am still working on a more complete review (as well as an extended podcast on Zweig), but it’s enough for now to know that I highly recommend digging into The Impossible Exile. I am thrilled to say that by happy accident Other Press, its publisher, sent me an extra copy and has blessed a blog giveaway. I can’t wait to pass this on to one of you.