An original study of exile, told through the biography of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig.
By the 1930s, Stefan Zweig had become the most widely translated living author in the world. His novels, short stories and biographies were so compelling that they became instant bestsellers. Zweig was also an intellectual and a lover of all the arts, high and low. This tells the tragic story of Zweig's extraordinary rise and fall while it also depicts, with great acumen, the gulf between the world of ideas in Europe and in America. It also reveals how Zweig embodied, through his work, thoughts and behaviour, the end of an era of Europe as the Western Ideal.
"[A] superbly lyrical study... The Impossible Exile is not really-or not just-a biography of Zweig's final years. It is a case study of dislocation, of people who had not only lost a home but who were no longer able to define the meaning of home...Mr. Prochnik gives a very rich sense of what so many exiles experienced during the war...[his] words could not be more resonant." -Andre Aciman, The Wall Street Journal
"Poignant, insightful." -The New Yorker
"[A]n intriguing...meditation on Zweig's last years. ...an intellectual feast served as a series of canapes. " - The New York Times Book Review
"Subtle, prodigiously researched and enduringly human throughout, The Impossible Exile is a portrait of a man and of his endless flight." - The Economist
" The Impossible Exile [is] a gripping, unusually subtle, poignant, and honest study. Prochnik attempts, on the basis of an uncompromising investigation, to clarify the motives that might have driven to suicide an author who still enjoyed a rare popularity." -Anka Muhlstein, New York Review of Books
"[Wes] Anderson told Fresh Air's Terry Gross that until a few years ago, he had never heard of Zweig - and he's not alone. Many moviegoers share Anderson's past ignorance of the man who was once one of the world's most famous and most translated authors. George Prochnik is out to change that." - NPR , " All Things Considered "
"Richly rewarding...a major work of historical and cultural criticism of Europe's darkest times...Zweig's haunted talent has never been better explored than in this exemplary study." - The Times
"A terrific book...Prochnik focuses on Zweig's later years, discussing in detail his wanderings in the nineteen-thirties and forties-to Great Britain, the United States, and his last stop, Brazil. Zweig lived in New York for a while, and Prochnik movingly documents the toll that the author's peculiar prominence among the Jewish émigré community took on him, especially at a time when millions of Jews who remained in Europe were dying." - NewYorker.com
"[A] fascinating study of the author who escaped the Nazis only to take his own life in a Brazilian city in 1942, his second wife, Lotte, by his side...Zweig resists intimacy, but Prochnik's perceptiveness and gentle humor slip us inside the meticulously cultivated persona." - Vogue.com
"It's hard to imagine a better book about Zweig, or one more worthy of so complex and multi-faceted a personage. " - LA Review of Books
"Prochnik's brilliantly accomplished and genre-bending book allows access to Zweig in a way that until now seemed impossible." - New Statesman
"[ The Impossible Exile ]has the essayistic virtues of brevity, personality and a relaxed gait...By breaking away from the cradle-to-grave narrative groove of traditional biography, Prochnik gives his thought, and his prose, free rein." - The Telegraph
" The Impossible Exile captures the intractable, persistent violence wrought upon those who escaped the physical trap of Nazism, but were nonetheless held captive by fear, and displacement from self and home." - Bookslut
"Prochnik evocatively portrays the [New York] city Zweig knew [and] shows us what it meant for Zweig to be there-how hard it was to be one of the 'lucky' ones....[Prochnik] is particularly empathetic in writing about this dilemma." - Bookforum
"Well researched, empathic, energetic, The Impossible Exile is a pleasure to read." - Literary Review
"A winning mix of travelogue and family memoir." - Jewish Review of Books
"Enlightening and enjoyable." - American Jewish World
"One of the finest literary biographies of the year." - Flavorwire
"Sensitive and enthralling...A joy to read...takes you into the world from which [Zweig's] writing sprang." - The Sunday Times
"Accessible, compelling, and thorough without being pedantic, this literary and cultural biography offers keen insight into Zweig's life, particularly his final years." - Library Journal
The artists and intellectuals in Vienna were grappling with many of the same problems and aspirations that fueled the violent passions of their archenemies. Just as Hitler's agenda was dominated by pan-Europeanism in the Napoleonic sense-to be achieved through conquest and maintained through the hegemonic rule of one nationalist culture-Zweig's program was inspired by the dream of pan-Europeanism on a humanist model, to be achieved through peaceful, transnational understanding and ruled over by an elite assembly of scholars and artists. People on both sides of the cataclysmic debates over Europe's destiny were educated in the same stultifying school system, shaped by the same sinister admixture of sexual repression and jingoistic militarism. They'd passed through the same faith-obliterating war, and lived with the lingering socioeconomic devastation of that conflict. The inspiringly cultured Viennese shared more of their nemeses' concerns about the future of Europe and the need for a profound spiritual rejuvenation than we have yet reckoned with.
Zweig himself had recognized-and even, momentarily, endorsed-the allure of National Socialism. After the September 1930 elections in Germany, when support for the National Socialists shot up from under a million votes two years before to more than six million, he blamed the stuffiness of the country's old-fashioned democrats themselves for the Nazi victory, calling the results "a perhaps unwise but fundamentally sound and approvable revolt of youth against the slowness and irresolution of 'high politics.'" Klaus Mann, twenty-five years Zweig's junior, had to remind him that "not everything youth does and thinks is a priori good and pregnant with future. If German youth now turns radical should we not ask, above all, for the sake of which cause it rebels?"