Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, And The Summer Before The Dark by Volker WeidermannOstend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, And The Summer Before The Dark by Volker Weidermann

Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, And The Summer Before The Dark

byVolker WeidermannTranslated byCarol Janeway

Hardcover | January 26, 2016

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It’s the summer of 1936, and the writer Stefan Zweig is in crisis. His German publisher no longer wants him, his marriage is collapsing, and his house in Austria—searched by the police two years earlier—no longer feels like home. He’s been dreaming of Ostend, the Belgian beach town that is a paradise of promenades, parasols, and old friends. So he journeys there with his lover, Lotte Altmann, and reunites with fellow writer and semi-estranged close friend Joseph Roth, who is himself about to fall in love. For a moment, they create a fragile haven. But as Europe begins to crumble around them, the writers find themselves trapped on vacation, in exile, watching the world burn. In Ostend, Volker Weidermann lyrically recounts “the summer before the dark,” when a coterie of artists, intellectuals, drunks, revolutionaries, and madmen found themselves in limbo while Europe teetered on the edge of fascism and total war.
 
Ostend is the true story of two of the twentieth century’s great writers, written with a novelist’s eye for pacing, chronology, and language—a dazzling work of historical nonfiction.
 
(Translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway)
VOLKER  WEIDERMANN, born in Darmstadt in 1969, studied politics and German studies in Heidelberg and Berlin. He began his career as a culture journalist before serving as literary director and editor of the Sunday edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He is currently a writer and editor covering literature for Der Spiegel. Weiderm...
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Title:Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, And The Summer Before The DarkFormat:HardcoverDimensions:176 pages, 7.8 × 5.4 × 0.8 inPublished:January 26, 2016Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1101870265

ISBN - 13:9781101870266

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Reviews

Read from the Book

It’s summer up here by the sea; the gaily colored bathing huts glow in the sun. Stefan Zweig is sitting in a loggia on the fourth floor of a white house that faces onto the broad boulevard of Ostend, looking at the water. It’s one of his recurrent dreams, being here, writing, gazing out into the emptiness, into summer itself. Right above him, on the next floor up, is his secretary, Lotte Altmann, who is also his lover; she’ll be coming down in a moment, bringing the typewriter, and he’ll dictate his Buried Candelabrum to her, returning repeatedly to the same sticking point, the place from which he cannot find a way forward. That’s how it’s been for some weeks now.   Perhaps his great friend Joseph Roth will have some advice. His friend, whom he’s going to meet later in the bistro, as he does every afternoon this summer. Or one of the others, one of the detractors, one of the fighters, one of the cynics, one of the drinkers, one of the blowhards, one of the silent onlookers. One of the group that sits downstairs on the boulevard of Ostend, waiting for the moment when they can go back to their homeland. Racking their brains over what they can do to change the world’s trajectory so that they can go home to the country they came from, so that in turn they can maybe even come back here to this beach on a visit one day, as guests. For now, they’re refugees in vacationland. The apparently ever-cheerful Hermann Kesten, the preacher Egon Erwin Kisch, the bear Willi Muenzenberg, the champagne queen Irmgard Keun, the great swimmer Ernst Toller, the strategist Arthur Koestler: friends, foes, storytellers thrown together here overlooking the beach in July by the vagaries of world politics. And the stories they tell will be the fragments shored against their ruin.   Stefan Zweig in the summer of 1936. He looks at the sea through the large window and thinks with a mixture of pity, reticence, and pleasure about the group of displaced men and women he will be rejoining shortly. Until a few years ago, his life had been pure ascent—simple, greatly admired, and greatly envied. Now he’s afraid, he feels himself bound by a hundred obligations, a hundred invisible fetters. Nothing will loosen them, nothing will provide support. But there is this summer, in which everything might change. Here, on this extravagantly wide boulevard with its magnificent white house and its great casino, the extraordinary Palace of Luck. Holiday mood, lively atmosphere, ice creams, parasols, lethargy, wind, wooden booths. ### He was here once before; it was the summer of 1914, when the disaster began; with the headlines and the newsboys all along the beach promenade screaming more excitedly with every day that passed, excited and joyous because they were doing the best business they’d ever had.   The majority of the bathers who tore the papers out of their hands were German. The boys yelled the headlines: Russia Provokes Austria; Germany Prepares to Mobilize. And Zweig too—pale, well dressed, with wire-rimmed glasses—came down by tram to be closer to the unfolding news. He was electrified by the headlines; they made him feel delightfully aroused and excited. Of course he knew that the whole drama would subside into a general silence soon enough, but right now he simply wanted to savor it. The possibility of a great event. The possibility of a war. The possibility of a grand future, of an entire world in motion. His joy was especially great when he looked into the faces of his Belgian friends. They had turned pale in the course of these last days. They were unprepared to join the game and seemed to be taking the whole thing very seriously. Stefan Zweig laughed. He laughed over the pathetic troops of Belgian soldiers on the promenade. Laughed over a little dog that was dragging a machine gun along behind it. Laughed over the entire holy solemnity of his friends.   He knew they had nothing to fear. He knew that Belgium as a country was neutral; he knew that Germany and Austria would never overrun a neutral country. “You can hang me from this lamppost if the Germans march in here,” he cried to his friends. They remained skeptical, and their faces turned grimmer as the days went by.   Where had his Belgium gone so suddenly? His supposed land of vitality, of strength, of energy, and the intensity of another kind of life. That was what he so loved about this country and this sea. And why he so admired the country’s greatest poet.

Editorial Reviews

“Ostend might appeal to fans of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Wes Anderson’s other movies. . . . it boasts a cinematic quality that invites readers to imagine it as a movie with heaps of alcohol, sex, and intrigue.” —The New York Journal of Books   “Potent and melancholy. . . .  Weidermann has combed letters, books, diaries, and reminiscences and used them to tell his sad tale as if it were a novel.”—Michael Prodger, The Times (London)  “Lovely. . . . The late Carol Brown Janeway, translator of Bernhard Schlink’s ‘The Reader,’ has translated Weidermann’s lean, elegant, sometimes impressionistic prose gorgeously from the German. . . . a tribute and an elegy.” —Julia M. Klein, Forward “A fascinating story, brilliantly told.” —David Herman, The Jewish Chronicle “Dazzling. . . . Graceful. For such a slim book to convey with such poignancy the extinction of a generation of ‘Great Europeans’ is a triumph.” —The Sunday Telegraph“Light on its feet, a reverie in a way. . . . [Weidermann] writes the book as a novel, almost, recreating scenes and channeling characters' thoughts . . . I enjoyed getting lost in the book’s melodies.” —Jennifer Senior, The New York Times“Weidermann evokes a remarkable sense of spirit and place . . . . Ostend is a beautiful jewel of a book; an all-too-brief breath of the rarefied air of another era. If that summer at Ostend revitalized Zweig and Roth and all the others against the coming of the dark, so too Weidermann’s stirring account of it revitalizes the contemporary reader 80 years later.” —Popmatters “Like Wes Anderson’s Zubrowska in The Grand Budapest Hotel. . . . at once haunting and ornamental: an antique music-box of melancholic atmosphere. . . . A meditation on the act of creation, one that explores how we make refuges out of our own pasts.” —Tara Isabella Burton, The New Republic "A triumph." —The Telegraph (Five stars)“This is a marvelous book about many things — politics, love, identity, belonging — but at its heart is the story of a great and troubled friendship between two great and troubled writers. . . . Summer Before the Dark is literary biography at its best. Faithful to facts, it reads like a novel. With its elegiac atmosphere, extreme personalities, tense political backdrop and tragic central relationships, it would make a terrific film — Death in Venice with more sex, more booze, more action and considerably more conversation.” —Rebecca Abrams, Financial Times “Volker Weidermann magically evokes the mood of these artistic refugees as the sun set on the civilized order of Europe. . . . “Ostend,” which has been marvelously translated by Carol Brown Janeway, abounds in poetry and deadpan understatement. . . .The dissonance between the writers’ languid summer and the utter ruthlessness of what awaits gives “Ostend” a dream-like quality. The book is as transporting as fiction—I had to remind myself that it wasn’t as I read. Partly this is due to the level of detail. Mr. Weidermann knows which café each writer favored, what they drank, which manuscripts they read aloud. It could be Hemingway.” —Roger Lowenstein, The Wall Street Journal“Resonant. . . . As Europe tumbles towards darkness, the writers in Ostend create a haven for love and literature - one they know is doomed - that Weidermann evokes with skill and delicacy.” —The Sunday Times “Ostend reads as a time capsule that Weidermann has sorted through for us, and organized. . . . Remarkable.” —Michelle Frost, Cleaver Magazine“Breezier and more brightly written than a study of two profound minds in torment on the eve of global disaster should reasonably be; an enthralling, juicy read.” —Big Issue “A sign of how far [the revival of Zweig and Roth's work] has succeeded... a work of popular history very much like those Stefan Zweig used to write.” —New Statesman “Beautifully translated by Carol Brown Janeway . . . a short but vital calm-before-the-storm history, one that shines a valuable light on two of the 20th century’s finest writers . . . rich in insight and empathy. This is a sparkling gem.” —Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star-Tribune“Intimate. . . . Weidermann gives us a glimpse of what was, to many of these writers, a brief but rare home.” —Claire Hazelton, The Guardian“Weidermann has so deeply internalized the writings and temperaments of Zweig and Roth, he luminously and empathically chronicles the nuances of their bond, affirming their deep belief in writing, which Roth described as a ‘sacred duty,’ and the ‘countless blessings’ of books, as Zweig put it. A funny, bittersweet, tragic, and haunting tribute to the radiance of love and literature in the grimmest of times.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist“[Weidermann’s] writing is careful, respectful, and he discloses no secrets, exposes no scandals; he simply introduces the salon in a ‘You Were There’ approach, acting as a camera recording events that have long since been revealed, adding commentary that rarely leaves the heads of the writers whose minds he ostensibly probes. Carol Brown Janeway, best known for her translation of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, and who died shortly after completing work on Ostend, has maintained Weidermann’s tone and has captured the existential essence of the omniscient narrator’s voice . . . . There are some lovely insights.” —Bookslut "The book is rendered in vignettes notable for their economy of language, and Weidermann's keen sense of place anchors an incisive, sympathetic overview of the sweeping political and cultural shift in 1930s Germany. Janeway's elegant translation only strengthen's a worthy addition to the growing body of work on Zweig. . . . Highly recommended." —Library Journal“In prose that reflects Zweig’s own sparse, pretty, razor-sharp words, journalist and Der Spiegel literary critic Weidermann puts his newsman talents to work for a lush re-creation of the summer a handful of Europe’s most well-known intellectuals and artists gathered together in the hotels and bars of this resort community for a thrilling mix of hope, despair, and disbelief while the world outside them fell apart.” —Signature, 7 Books We’re Excited to Crack Open in 2016“Sparkling. . . . Weidermann’s storytelling is piquant.” —Publishers Weekly“Taut, novelistic. . . . In lyrical prose, Weidermann re-creates the atmosphere of an ephemeral moment for both writers and the disillusioned men and women who gathered with them. . . . Evocative, sharply drawn portraits and a wry, knowing narrative voice make for an engrossing history.” —Kirkus (starred review)“Volker Weidermann has struck gold.” —Die Zeit“A fascinating book . . . splendidly researched and highly informative.” —Die Welt“[Weidermann] paints a picture of how things could have been during this summer of farewells.” —Elke Heidenreich, Stern“A study of the meeting of the crème-de-la-crème of exiled German writers . . . A work of literary criticism which reads like a novel.” —BR“Weidermann’s exacting gaze and his wealth of knowledge makes this a highly worthwhile volume—a special, melancholic chapter of literary history.” —WDR 3“Beautifully captures the feeling of departure.” —Tagesspiegel“A truly impressive work of 20th century history and cultural history, all packed into a mere 160 pages.” —Christine Westermann, WDR“Eloquently, expertly, and with all his skills at re-creating atmosphere, Weidermann pulls us into the literary history of the 20th century.” —Deutschlandradio Kultur