04 January 2021

Stefan Zweig looks up at Montaigne's tower window for light


Two exceptional writers are conjoined in this small book on Montaigne which Zweig never completely finished before he committed suicide in 1942. 

Both humanists who loved books and whose curiosity led them to investigate life through what they found out about in reality, empirically through themselves. 

Separated by several centuries they both died within a year of one another at the ages of 59 (Montaigne) and (Zweig) 60 years of age.

'For him books are not like men who impose themselves and burden him with their chatter, and of whom is hard to be rid. When you don't call for them they stay put; you can just pick up this one or that, according to your whim: (Zweig)

"Books are my kingdom. And here I seek to reign an absolute lord." (Montaigne)

Books offer him their opinion and he respond with his own. They express their thoughts, and to him arouse further thoughts.  They do not disturb him when he is silent; They only speak when he questions them. Here is his realm. They await his delectation.' (Zweig)

I confess that for the past 6 months I have been struggling through Les Essaies in the original old French, but only because of the old French. It feels like I am a soldier reading my way through a mine field on my belly, and like a good soldier, I persist. 

Zweig is a wonderful writer, so readable, and so clever. I am making my way through all his small novels and short stories. I can highly recommend his The World of Yesterday, a memoir of his flight from Austria before Hitler took over.

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