Stefan Zweig

Joseph Epstein at First Things:

Perhaps Stefan Zweig’s current low reputation as a storyteller is owing to his not having written a single great work of fiction of novel length, unlike his friend Joseph Roth (whom Zweig financially supported for nearly a decade) with The Radetzky March, or Ivan Goncharov with Oblomov, or Boris Pasternak with (his one novel) Dr. Zhivago. In The World of Yesterday, Zweig provides a clue to why he never wrote a great novel, and it lies in his method of composition. One of the many divisions among writers is that between those who endlessly add to their manuscripts (Balzac and Proust spring to mind) and those who cut them down. Zweig was one of the latter. Calling himself an impatient reader, suffering keenly from tedium—“anything long-winded, high-flown, or gushing irritates me, so does everything that is vague and indistinct”—he readily took the cleaver to his own writing. (Though not everywhere: His excellent biographies of Marie Antoinette and of Balzac both come in at around four hundred pages.) “If I have mastered any kind of art,” Zweig wrote, “it is the art of leaving things out. . . . So if anything at least partly accounts for the success of my books, it is my strict discipline in preferring to confine myself to short works of literature, concentrating on the heart of the matter.” But the concision that made for popular success in his day may have hurt his reputation in ours.

more here.