Solving the mystery of Stefan Zweig’s international success: new book out now!

from the publisher:

During his lifetime Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig (1881–1942) was among the most widely read German-language writers in the world. Always controversial, he fell into critical disfavor as writers and critics in a devastated postwar Europe attacked the poor literary quality of his works and excoriated his apolitical fiction as naïve Habsburg nostalgia. Yet in other parts of the world, Zweig’s works have enjoyed continued admiration and popularity, even canonical status.

China’s Stefan Zweig unveils the extraordinary success of Zweig’s novellas in China, where he has been read in an entirely different way. During the New Culture Movement of the 1920s, Zweig’s novellas were discovered by intellectuals turning against Confucian tradition. In the 1930s, left-wing scholars criticized Zweig as a decadent bourgeois writer, yet after the communist victory in 1949 he was re-introduced as a political writer whose detailed psychological descriptions exposed a brutal and hypocritical bourgeois capitalist society. In the 1980s, after the Cultural Revolution, Zweig’s works triggered a large-scale “Stefan Zweig fever,” where Zweig-style female figures, the gentle, loving, and self-sacrificing women who populate his novels, became the feminine ideal. Zweig’s seemingly anachronistic poetics of femininity allowed feminists to criticize Maoist gender politics by praising Zweig as “the anatomist of the female heart.” As Arnhilt Hoefle makes clear, Zweig’s works have never been passively received. Intermediaries have actively selected, interpreted, and translated his works for very different purposes.

China’s Stefan Zweig not only re-conceptualizes our understanding of cross-cultural reception and its underlying dynamics, but proposes a serious re-evaluation of one of the most successful yet misunderstood European writers of the twentieth century. Zweig’s works, which have inspired recent film adaptations such as Xu Jinglei’s Letter from an Unknown Woman (2005) and Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), are only beginning to be rediscovered in Europe and North America, but the heated debate about his literary merit continues. This book, with its wealth of hitherto unexplored Chinese-language sources, sheds light on the Stefan Zweig conundrum through the lens of his Chinese reception to reveal surprising, and long overlooked, literary dimensions of his works.


Arnhilt Johanna Hoefle, China’s Stefan Zweig. The Dynamics of Cross-Cultural Reception. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2018.


Coming soon: China’s Stefan Zweig

My book on the fascinating reception history of the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) in the Chinese-speaking world is forthcoming with University of Hawai’i Press (Critical Interventions) this autumn/winter!

Watch out for updates!


Talk: Poetics and Politics – Stefan Zweig in Taiwan

As part of the Vienna Taiwan Lecture Series at the University of Vienna I will present a chapter of my forthcoming book on the reception of Stefan Zweig in the Chinese-speaking world:

Arnhilt J. Höfle
Poetics and Politics: Stefan Zweig in Taiwan

Date: Wednesday, 22nd March, 2017
Time: 18:15
Location: SIN1, at the Department of East Asian Studies/Sinology, Altes AKH, Campus, Spitalgasse 2, yard 2, entrance 2.3

When several novellas by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) were published in Taiwan in the 1960s they caused a real sensation. The translations by the acclaimed writer and translator Chen Ying (1907-1988) soon broke the record of translation sales. Given the situation of Taiwanese publishers in the 1960s and the difficult position of German-language literature in the book market, this “Stefan Zweig fever” was even more remarkable. To celebrate Zweig’s centenary in the early 1980s, an abridged version of Chen Ying’s translation of his only completed novel Beware of Pity (Ungeduld des Herzens) was included together with ten short stories in a compilation by the PRC’s Shandong People’s Publishing House. While scholars rediscovered Chen Ying as an important representative of modern Chinese women’s literature, they declared her translations of Zweig to be an “important contribution to the reunification of the motherland.” The case of Stefan Zweig in Taiwan therefore not only demonstrates how individual intermediaries, who have often been neglected in historical studies, played a key role in the process of reception. It also allows unique insights into the complexity of literature crossing borders. These translations of an Austrian writer became entangled in the dynamics of cross-Strait relations during the 1980s, when cultural exchanges served as one of the PRC’s most important channels to promote its reunification strategy. Traversing a truly global system of cultural transfer, Zweig’s works have been selected and employed for very different literary and ideological purposes



New Blog on Digital Humanities and Sino-German History

Despite a growing number of digital research tools, the potential of Digital Humanities (DH), the intersection of the humanities and computing, has certainly not been fully exploited yet. Henrike Rudolph, a member of the Graduate Programme “China in Germany, Germany in China” at the University of Hamburg, has recently started a new blog to highlight methods and approaches of DH in the field of Chinese studies.

In three sections she introduces not only useful tools for language learning and historical research, such as MARKUS, the Chinese Text Project or the China Biographical Database Project, but also relevant full-text databases for different historical periods as well as a selection of online research initiatives, such as the MCLC Resource Center at Ohio State University or the international research network The PRC History Group.

In addition, the blog presents Henrike Rudolph’s own research, such as her recently completed project on vocational education in Sino-German history, and provides a substantial reading list on the many different facets of Sino-German history.

This new blog will be a very valuable resource for established scholars as well as undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in the historical relations between the Chinese-speaking and the German-speaking world and the exciting new possibilities of Digital Sinology.