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Messages from a Lost World: Europe on the Brink by Stefan Sweig

2015, Pushkin Press (new English translation)

Written between 1914 - 1941, the essays in this collection are mainly a call for European Unity to avoid future wars, but also discuss the role of art in The Secret of Artistic Creation, and History as Poetess. You can check out the essays for free here. There is a note at the beginning by translator John Gray where he addresses the question of Sweig's suicide and what it meant for his wife Lotte.


For more information on the collection read this article.


 

I read an old falling-apart French version (Editions Victor Attinger, 1949) of the collection called simply Last Messages (Derniers Messages). Many of the essays included in this version are the same as the English translation above, but some, like The Sleepless World (1914), and The Tower of Babel (1916), are missing, so I need to read those sometime. On the other hand, these essays are only in the French version: Tolstoy, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Béatrice Cenci, Lord Byron, and Mater Dolorosa. I wasn't able to get more information on these differences and where to find the missing ones from the French version in the time I had today.


I fully enjoyed the essays, but only marked a couple of pages:


In The Historiography of Tomorrow (L'Histoire de Demain) Sweig marvels that Tolstoy, in War and Peace, was able to describe war and the military strategies of generals like Napoleon grandiosely and in such exquisite detail, while at the same time making clear his stance that war is immoral.


In Tolstoy, (French version), Sweig is shocked by what he considers to be Tolstoy's naïve and far-out idea: All people should be equal and therefore the rich should give up their wealth and other privileges, including culture (all art not accesible to everyone should be left by the wayside). The equality of all people should come not from the bottom (revolution), but from the top.


Read:

Hannah Arendt’s essay on Sweig, Reflections on Literature and Culture (Stanford University Press, 2007)

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