07 September 2014

great books #5 (Stefan Zweig)

'Emerson's axiom that good books are a substitute for the best university still seems to me to be accurate, and I am convinced to this day that one can become an excellent philosopher, historian, literary philologist, lawyer or anything else without ever having gone to university or even grammar school. In ordinary everyday life I have found confirmation again and again, that in practice second-hand booksellers often know more about books than the professors who lecture on them; art dealers know more than academic art historians; and many of the most important ideas and discoveries in all fields  come from outsiders. Practical, salutary as academic may be for those of average talent, it seems to me that creative individuals can dispense with it, and may even be inhibited by the academic approach, in particular at a university like ours in Vienna.'

Though perhaps I wouldn't go as far as this I believe it to be mostly true that certainly, artists are rarely formed in the classroom of the Academic tradition whether it be the  19th century or today's contemporary art schools. 
But, this is a beautifully written book about Zweig's childhood and coming of age as a poet and writer whose love of Art was paramount. Indeed, he describes a Vienna before the last war as a place where Art was revered in every way so much more so than the just the acquisition of riches. This is a wonderful book. 

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