Sunday, 6 May 2012

Stefan Zweig "Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman"

Zweig, of course, is a master of describing emotions. There is no doubt about that, but he adores anguish and insane passion. Remember “Letter from an unknown woman” and many other novellas. He probably liked to shock his audience. Had he lived today, he would be a producer of Hollywood films. Everything is taken to such extreme; it is similar to adding sugar to your glass of Cola. 

What struck me most is how much society has changed over the last hundred years. The main character is a forty-two year old woman. She had an adventure that lasted twenty-four hours. She did not speak of her secret adventure for more than twenty years! She lost her self esteem and considered herself unworthy of her children for a long time. If you look at her mystery through the eyes of a modern woman, you will not find anything criminal in it. Well, I have to add that she was an English aristocrat; Zweig did his best, and yet…


A modern woman, even if she is an English aristocrat, would quite quickly get over this kind of adventure, or at least she would not be silent for more than twenty years. She would share her story with a close friend over a cup of tea, or if there are no such friends around, she would turn to a psychologist or psychoanalyst, and that's it. Can you imagine how hard the code of conduct and morality was?

Or there's the detail that she had to rush from a hotel room where something happened and yet she could not leave the room without a hat. It's not only that she was a British aristocrat. I also read about hats in Simenon’ s books, who lived and worked much later than Zweig. Simenon also draws attention to the fact that a woman was walking without hat. I missed those phrases at first, but then realized that it was not decent to walk without a hat even in the middle of the twentieth century, regardless of social class. That means that European women got rid of their “veils” quite recently. But I diverted from the story. And you, what do you think about this story?


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