Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Study Of Self

As a first time Slave, I wasn't sure how the posting went. Here is a comment I made to Litlove's original post: (I think I get the hang of posting now.)

Your review of the artist as an artist is excellent. I knew he had committed suicide, but your review provided me with another dimension to the man behind the artist. (I do not necessarily agree with you that a belief in the humanity of the human race is seldom in evidence. But, that's a discussion for another day.) As for the book, I was impressed that Zweig could write about despair as clearly and grippingly as he could about joy...euphoria even. He was obviously a master at painting emotion. However, Zweig describes only the zenith and the nadir of fortune - but nothing in between. Although I truly found it hard to put this book down, there was something disturbing, almost annoying, about both Christine and Ferdinand. In varying degrees, what began for me as feelings of sympathy and empathy for each, eventually turned rather sour. I began to believe that Christine's apparent self-consciousness was rather more a self-absorption, not unlike the young wealthy crowd she so much aspired to. Whether you believe yourself to be entitled to the heavy cream at the top, or whether you feel forever destined to get the fuzzy end of the lollipop - it's still all about you. Teaming up with Ferdinand could not have been a worse blend for her - he saw the world as bleakly as she did. The best solution these two hopeless people could devise was suicide or larceny. Either way suggests a lack of effort and responsibility. Certainly poverty and failed dreams are difficult to overcome, but not impossible. We don't have to look too far to find someone who has it worse than we do. In the end, I just wanted to tell them to grow up and stop complaining about how awful life was treating them...to "do something about it." Something more productive than shooting themselves. If I had not already heard that Zweig took his own life, I would not have been surprised to learn of it after reading this novel. There is much about despair here, with the only hope presented being death or a life of dishonesty and fear. I loved the work itself; I am not fond of the message I found in it.

4 comments:

Danielle said...

It was a very bleak story, but Zweig's telling of it was pretty masterful. It would be interesting to know more about his other work and see where this falls within it. He wrote it in the 1930s when life must have been pretty bleak in Austria (or had he left by then?).

Grad said...

I don't know where he was when he wrote it. Perhaps London? It surely was a bleak time, especially for parts of Europe, and he was a master. But, I can't help but think of those who suffered more than the main characters of this novel. Stories from concentration camp survivors are filled with examples of courage and even hope.

SFP said...

The article I read said he'd worked on it for years.

He may well have written himself into the bleakest of holes and set it aside until he had the wherewithal to move beyond that.

Grad, I'm so glad you decided to join us! I'm running behind as usual but I'm looking forward to the discussion on humanism, which I assume is taking place in the forum.

Dorothy W. said...

Interesting that you found Christine self-absorbed; I didn't feel that way as I was reading, but now I think about it, it makes sense. I suppose I forgive her her self-absorption given what a hard life she led. I found Ferdinand irritating at times -- he went on and on with his long speeches and didn't do very well listening to Christine. They both encourage some bad habits in each other, don't they?