Zenosbooks

Joseph Fouche: The Portrait Of A Politician by Stefan Zweig. London. 1930. Cassell & Company. Translated From The German By Eden & Cedar Paul. 327 pages.

 

Long out-of-print, this biography of Joseph Fouche, a major behind-the-scenes figure in the French Revolution, is a fascinating study of one man's rise from relatively humble beginnings to the absolute pinnacle of power, back down again, then up, and then again down. Fouche's roll-coaster ride of fortune is a remarkable story.

 

joseph fouche cassell and company 1930FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   'Gambler-in-chief at the great roulette board of human destiny,' Joseph Fouche is one of the most amazing figures in history. He is 'the most remarkable politician the world has ever known,' says Stefan Zweig, and, by way of proof, offers a brilliant and fascinating biography. Against the flaming background of the French Revolution we see Fouche, hitherto unknown, a 'semi-priest,' take his seat as member of the dreaded National Convention of France. When the people cry for the blood of the aristocrats he proceeds to Lyons, which has risen against the revolutionists, and plunges into an orgy of murder and blasphemy; when the people turn to moderation he repudiates his former companions, helps to speed Robespierre to the guillotine, and becomes the most moderate of moderates. His rise is meteoric, his fall equally so. Suddenly Citizen Fouche sinks into obscure poverty, earning his crust of bread by petty spying, even, at one tune, by becoming a swineherd. Then in the next era Fouche rises again to new and greater heights as Minister of Police to Napoleon. Not only does he spy out Napoleon's enemies, he even uses Josephine to spy on the Emperor himself. Joseph Fouche, the man who killed aristocrats and tended swine, finally becomes Duke of Otranto, millionaire, aristocrat, master-spy, and super-blackguard. From the pages of this volume emerge not only Fouche, but some of the great figures of history: Napoleon, Robespierre, Louis XVIII, Talleyrand, Lafayette. To read it is to gain knowledge of sixty of the most volcanic years the world has known.

Zweig Stefan

Stefan Zweig (November 28, 1881 – February 22, 1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of his literary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most famous writers in the world. Zweig was the son of Moritz Zweig (1845–1926), a wealthy Jewish textile manufacturer, and Ida Brettauer (1854–1938), from a Jewish banking family. Joseph Brettauer did business for twenty years in Ancona, Italy, where his second daughter Ida was born and grew up, too. Zweig studied philosophy at the University of Vienna and in 1904 earned a doctoral degree with a thesis on ‘The Philosophy of Hippolyte Taine‘. Religion did not play a central role in his education. ‘My mother and father were Jewish only through accident of birth‘, Zweig said later in an interview. Yet he did not renounce his Jewish faith and wrote repeatedly on Jews and Jewish themes, as in his story Buchmendel. Zweig had a warm relationship with Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, whom he met when Herzl was still literary editor of the Neue Freie Presse, then Vienna's main newspaper; Herzl accepted for publication some of Zweig's early essays. Zweig believed in internationalism and in europeanism; Herzl's Jewish nationalism could not therefore have much attraction, as The World of Yesterday, his autobigraphy, makes clear. The Neue Freie Presse did not review Herzl's Der Judenstaat. Zweig himself called Herzl's book an ‘obtuse text, [a] piece of nonsense’. Stefan Zweig was related to the Czech writer Egon Hostovský. Hostovský described Zweig as ‘a very distant relative’; some sources describe them as cousins. At the beginning of World War I, patriotic sentiment was widespread, and extended to many German and Austrian Jews: Zweig, as well as Martin Buber and Hermann Cohen, all showed support. Zweig, although patriotic, refused to pick up a rifle; instead, he served in the Archives of the Ministry of War, and soon acquired a pacifist stand like his friend Romain Rolland, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature 1915. He then moved to Switzerland until the end of the war. Zweig remained a pacifist all his life and advocated the unification of Europe. Like Rolland, he wrote many biographies. His Erasmus of Rotterdam he called a ‘concealed self-portrayal’ in The World of Yesterday. Zweig married Friderike Maria von Winternitz (born Burger) in 1920; they divorced in 1938. As Friderike Zweig she published a book on her former husband after his death. She later also published a picture book on Zweig. In 1939 Zweig married his secretary Lotte Altmann. Zweig left Austria in 1934, following Hitler's rise to power in Germany. He then lived in England (in London first, then from 1939 in Bath). Because of the swift advance of Hitler's troops into France and all of Western Europe, Zweig and his second wife crossed the Atlantic Ocean and traveled to the United States, where they settled in 1940 in New York City, and traveled. On August 22, 1940, they moved again to Petrópolis, a town in the conurbation of Rio de Janeiro. Feeling more and more depressed by the growth of intolerance, authoritarianism, and nazism, and feeling hopeless for the future for humanity, Zweig wrote a note about his feelings of desperation. Then, in February 23, 1942, the Zweigs were found dead of a barbiturate overdose in their house in the city of Petrópolis, holding hands. He had been despairing at the future of Europe and its culture. ‘I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearing a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth’, he wrote. The Zweigs' house in Brazil was later turned into a museum and is now known as Casa Stefan Zweig. Zweig was a very prominent writer in the 1920s and 1930s, and befriended Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud. He was extremely popular in the USA, South America and Europe, and remains so in continental Europe; however, he was largely ignored by the British public, and his fame in America has since dwindled. Since the 1990s there has been an effort on the part of several publishers (notably Pushkin Press and the New York Review of Books) to get Zweig back into print in English. Plunkett Lake Press Ebooks has begun to publish electronic versions of his non-fiction as well. Criticism over his oeuvre is severely divided between some English-speaking critics, who despise his literary style as poor, lightweight and superficial, and some of those more attached to the European tradition, who praise his humanism, simplicity and effective style. Zweig is best known for his novellas (notably The Royal Game, Amok, Letter from an Unknown Woman – filmed in 1948 by Max Ophüls), novels (Beware of Pity, Confusion of Feelings, and the posthumously published The Post Office Girl) and biographies (notably Erasmus of Rotterdam, Conqueror of the Seas: The Story of Magellan, and Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles and also posthumously published, Balzac). At one time his works were published in English under the pseudonym 'Stephen Branch' (a translation of his real name) when anti-German sentiment was running high. His biography of Queen Marie-Antoinette was later adapted for a Hollywood movie, starring the actress Norma Shearer in the title role. Zweig enjoyed a close association with Richard Strauss, and provided the libretto for Die schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman). Strauss famously defied the Nazi regime by refusing to sanction the removal of Zweig's name from the program for the work's première on June 24, 1935 in Dresden. As a result, Goebbels refused to attend as planned, and the opera was banned after three performances. Zweig later collaborated with Joseph Gregor, to provide Strauss with the libretto for one other opera, Daphne, in 1937. At least one other work by Zweig received a musical setting: the pianist and composer Henry Jolles, who like Zweig had fled to Brazil to escape the Nazis, composed a song, ‘Último poema de Stefan Zweig’, based on ‘Letztes Gedicht’, which Zweig wrote on the occasion of his 60th birthday in November 1941. During his stay in Brazil, Zweig wrote Brasilien, Ein Land der Zukunft (Brazil, Land of the Future) which was an accurate analysis of his newly adopted country and in his book he managed to demonstrate a fair understanding of the Brazilian culture that surrounded him. Zweig was a passionate collector of manuscripts. There are important Zweig collections at the British Library and at the State University of New York at Fredonia. The British Library's Stefan Zweig Collection was donated to the library by his heirs in May 1986. It specialises in autograph music manuscripts, including works by Bach, Haydn, Wagner, and Mahler. It has been described as ‘one of the world's greatest collections of autograph manuscripts’. One particularly precious item is Mozart's ‘Verzeichnüß aller meiner Werke’ – that is, the composer's own handwritten thematic catalogue of his works. The 1993–1994 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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