The latest adapted excerpt from Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia is of the great and sadly increasingly forgotten Stefan Zweig.
“Heart-warming hours” sounds less corny in German: herzliche Stunden. Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) had a house in Salzburg, and from the terrace he could see across the border into Germany, to the heights on which the exterminating angel perched, gathering its strength. If Hitler had looked in the other direction, he would have seen, on Zweig’s terrace, everything he was determined to annihilate, and not just because it was Jewish. There were plenty of gentiles who came to see Zweig. But they were all infected with Kulturbolschewismus, the deadly international disease that presumed to live in a world of its own: the disease that Hitler, in his role as hygienist, had a Pasteur-like mission to eradicate.
Zweig (1881-1942) is a fitting coda to this project, because his life, work, exile, and self-inflicted death combine to sum up so much of what has gone before, which is really the story of the will to achievement in the face of all the conditions for despair.