Read in ‘De wereld van gisteren’ (1944) of Stefan Zweig:


His ‘Die Welt von Gestern’ was published in 1944, the book was translated in Dutch bij Willem van Toorn in 1990, I read it only last week. A great book it is! On 22 Februari 1942 the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig and his wife committed suicide in Brazil. His autobiography was published two years after his death. It is a personal history of twentieth century Europe, with great portraits of its famous writers, artists, musicians, composers and scientists, above all its great cities: Vienna, Paris, Berlin, London, Salzburg, Moscow, but also New York. Paris was Zweigs favourite, but Vienna was where the writer came from. Zweig was obsessed by the creative moments of great people, like Beethoven, Strauss, Rilke, Einstein, Schubert, Rolland, Freud, he collected their manuscripts, sometimes even their tables and chairs. But I must say, his descriptions of cities where all the geniuses he admired spent their lives, are among the best. All his life he travelled like a gypsy, a poor migrant, ignoring borders, living in great cities he loved the most. Vienna functioned as his pied-a-terre. And yes, politicians he detested, no matter which party they represented.

Vienna, Zweig writes, is the city of music. But Paris is the true city of inspiration. Everybody felt at home in Paris, whether you were Chinese, Scandinavian, Spaniard or Greek, Brazilian or Canadian. Feeling no constraint, one could think, laugh, make noise as much as you liked, everybody lived his or her own life, alone or together, luxurious or like a bohemian, everything could be said, the city was full of opportunities. You should have known Berlin in order to fully appreciate Paris, Zweig observes. The blood of revolution, he adds, was still in the streets, no one felt less than the others, there was no separation between the well-to-do and the working class people. Nothing felt arduous or rigid. `Ah, how weightless your life felt, how good life was for you, especially if you were young.` It was the Paris of 1904. And the young Zweig had rented a room near the Palais-Royal, a romantic study in the innermost magic circle of the busiest city of the world. Freedom is what a genius needs, good food, and a huge and diverse crowd!







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