Stefan Zweig’s Love Letters to His Second Wife: A Precious and Timeless Correspondence


When love arises in a world that is leaving, this world of yesterday that he loved so well and described so well, Stefan Zweig remains modest. They explain it to us, these 140 letters translated for the first time into French. But they also tell us a little more about this troubled writer, persecuted by the Nazis, who constructs his romantic relationship like his books, with admirable precision. Since we don’t have Lotte’s answers, we guess at the tacitness of this connection. And as sometimes weeks pass between two missives, we have the text of Oliver Matuschek, the best Zweig specialist.

The birth of an intellectual complicity that turns into love

It is much more than an intertextual link. It allows us to really understand what is going on. We witness the birth of an intellectual complicity that turns into love. Lotte Altmann, the trilingual secretary, is increasingly indispensable to the existence of the great Austrian writer. Firstly, because it relieves him of the daunting daily tasks – answering emails – but above all because it calms him down. He understands his world, his inspirations, his depressions. And this is where the whole work of the biographer takes on its meaning. An exchange of letters, however profound, cannot be understood without context. We implicitly understand all the complexity of the time, the rise of Nazism, but also the decline of family relations with his first wife, Friderike.

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It was in London, in 1934, through the Jewish refugee assistance organization, that this great traveler met this young woman with an intense look with whom he would commit suicide in Petrópolis, Brazil, in 1942. On 4 of March 1935 he wrote to her from Vienna: “I really miss you and your kind support […]. I miss that sense of security that made me feel so good around you. […]. I’d like to think you miss me a little. » The lack is infused throughout the letter. The writer reveals himself in mid-word, talks about something else to get around his emotions. With the months it goes from “Your Devoted” at “cheers” then to “your Stefan Zweig”. The notoriety of the great writer is at its peak. Early in their relationship, he polishes his Marie Stuart. She accompanies him, he calms down and they marry in 1939.

The thickness of tenderness

This correspondence is magnificent because it is from time immemorial. Thanks to the work of Oliver Matuschek, we capture the dramas of the moment and the love passion that sets in, between the lines, as if nothing needs to be said, not a word too much, just enough to highlight the thickness of the tenderness . When they are together in London, they don’t write because they see each other every day. But when the correspondence is resumed, there is always a kind of modesty in saying nothing, in masking the feelings behind the noise of the world. We don’t see it, this flame, but we feel it, we know it, it’s there. It is perhaps also this, the love between two beings, something that is not written but that is lived. Until death

Source : Le JDD

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