About Stefan Zweig

0615-bks-Scott-master495A. O. Scott at The New York Times:

Zweig, who wrote biographical studies of Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, Sigmund Freud and Erasmus (among many others), was as interested in the meanings as in the facts of his subjects’ lives. Prochnik, a protean writer of fiction, criticism and intellectual history, to some extent shares this bias. Not that Zweig’s character is easily gleaned from his writings, even the intimate letters and journals that make up a substantial portion of Prochnik’s material.

A fervent admirer of Walt Whitman, he is introduced to Prochnik’s readers as a bouquet of self-contradictions, containing multitudes. Between em-dashes, Prochnik describes him as an “affluent Austrian citizen, restless wandering Jew, stupendously prolific author, tireless advocate for Pan-European humanism, relentless networker, impeccable host, domestic hysteric, noble pacifist, cheap populist, squeamish sensualist, dog lover, cat hater, book collector, alligator shoe wearer, dandy, depressive, cafe enthusiast, sympathizer with lonely hearts, casual womanizer, man ogler, suspected flasher, convicted fabulist, fawner over the powerful, champion of the powerless, abject coward before the ravages of old age, unblinking stoic before the mysteries of the grave.” And this is only a partial catalog.

more here.