January 29, 2013

July

Christopher Clark quotes this fragment from Stefan Zweig. I thought it worth sharing

the wind in the trees, the twittering of the birds and the music floating across the park were at the same time part of my consciousness. I could clearly hear the melodies without being distracted, for the ear is so adaptable that a continuous noise, a roaring street, a rushing stream are quickly assimilated into one's awareness only an unexpected pause in the rhythm makes us prick our ears. [...] Suddenly the music stopped in the middle of a bar. I didn't know what piece they had played. I just sensed that the music had suddenly stopped. Instinctively I looked up from my book. The crowd, too, which was strolling through the trees in a single flowing mass, seemed to change; it, too, paused abruptly in its motion to and fro. Something must have happened.
The something was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria. Zweig's writing is so interesting- at once it combines an observation about 1914, how ordinary life was. One can almost imagine the crinolined crowds passing in front of the park, through the boulevards of 19th Century Vienna and then the 20th Century with all its horror arrived. At the same time Zweig says something important about memory and history: we remember change, the continuous strand of music is something we are acculturated too- we remember disruption not stillness. History as Gibbon put it was the record of the crimes, follies etc of human kind- I think Zweig gives us a reason here for Gibbon's statement: crime not kindness is a disturbance.

5 comments:

James Higham said...

That certainly brings it home and it's something I try to do - insert some minute observation about the paint on the windowsill or the torn curtain or whatever.

That paragraph was worth its weight in gold.

Gracchi said...

Thank you- Zweig is a wonderful writer- if you haven't, you should read his classic chess which is an amazing piece of work.

Sean Jeating said...

The Chess Story, indeed, is an interesting one.

Claude said...

In my early 20, I read (in French) "Le Brésil, Terre d'avenir." It was so well written, it showed so many promises for that land and it had so much hope for the future. I thought it could be a place where I would want to settle. Then, I learned that Stefan Zweig and his second wife, despairing of the state of the world, in 1942, had killed themselves while living in that beautiful country.

Youth is very demanding of its could-be heroes! I never again read anything Zweig had written. I guess I missed something....

Gracchi said...

Sean you are right- Claude yes youth is!