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

ALL WELCOME!

 

Stefan Zweig on the Screen: Maria Schrader’s Vor der Morgenröte

Maria Schrader’s episodic film Vor der Morgenröte, which is released today on 2 June 2016, depicts the last years in the life of Stefan Zweig. It is the most recent manifestation of a re-discovered interest in Zweig. It is different from other projects that have tried to solve the enigma of this best-loved and best-hated Austrian writer. In his arguably sensationalist book Ulrich Weinzierl for example claims to have discovered Zweig’s “burning secrets,” in particular his alleged homosexual and pedophile fantasies and exhibitionist habits as a young man (see this critical review by Stephan Resch). Schrader’s film, on the contrary, carefully negotiates Zweig’s role as the world’s most famous writer before and during the Second World War.

Framed by a prologue and an epilogue the film catches up with Zweig in four episodes between 1936 and his suicide in 1942. The first one shows Zweig during his journey to South America in 1936, on his way to represent the German-speaking writers at the 14th International PEN Congress in Buenos Aires. Compared to the outspokenly antifascist Emil Ludwig, who soon becomes the Argentine newspapers’ star, Zweig refuses to speak against Germany. Writers should focus on their work and not become involved in politics.

His contemporaries accuse him of cowardice and arrogance, charges that echo in his European and North American reception throughout the century and until the present day. Apart from questioning his works’ quality (some might remember Michael Hofmann’s attack on the “Pepsi of Austrian writing” of 2010), his skepticism towards politics is one of the most important reasons for his controversial position within the canon of modern German-language literature.

Vor der Morgenröte is the second film directed by the acclaimed actress Maria Schrader, who is nominated for the German Film Prize. Stefan Zweig is played in a grandiose performance by Josef Hader, otherwise famous as a satirical cabaret artist or the always grumpy private detective Brenner in the film adaptations of Wolf Haas’ crime novels. He is accompanied by two, in their very own way, very strong women: Aenne Schwarz as his second wife Lotte Zweig and Barbara Sukowa, who is also nominated for the German Film Prize as best supporting actress, as his ex-wife Friderike Zweig. The film is a cinematographic masterpiece, thanks to cameraman Wolfgang Thaler, who is known for his work with the Austrian directors Michael Glawogger and Ulrich Seidl.

The film neither intends to condemn nor to defend Zweig. Its strength is to allow us a glimpse into the depths, the friendships and alliances but also the conflicts, solitude and the despair of exile – then and now.

Vor der Morgenröte is featured as the film of the month by Kinofenster.de, a cooperation of the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung and Vision Kino. Apart from interviews with director Maria Schrader and cameraman Wolfgang Thaler, the online platform provides a film review, background articles on German-language exile literature in the 1930s and the narrative strategies of the biopic as well as a set of practical suggestions for teachers.

Talk: Stefan Zweig and (World) Literature in Exile

The reception of Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) presents one of the greatest literary conundrums of our time. While in the 1920s, at the height of his career, the Austrian-Jewish novelist was among the most widely read and most-acclaimed German-language writers, his works fell into radical critical disfavor in the second half of the century.

The allegedly poor literary quality and his apolitical nostalgic approach as an exiled Jewish writer during the Holocaust, have become the main targets of his critics in Europe and North America. However, Zweig’s works have enjoyed not only continued admiration but even canonical status in other parts of the world, such as in China.

In this upcoming talk on January 26, 2016 at the University of Hamburg I will take the Chinese reception of Zweig as a case study to introduce a different way of reading the Austrian writer that reveals important political and literary dimensions that have long been overlooked.

According to David Damrosch, literary works enter into world literature when they circulate beyond the culture of origin. Despite the truly global scale of Stefan Zweig’s biography, literary settings, and readership, the concept of world literature has just recently been discussed in research on the writer, for example in the volume Stefan Zweig and World Literature of 2014 edited by Birger Vanwesenbeeck and Mark H. Gelber.

While circulating and thriving around the world, Zweig’s works have been almost completely removed from their original linguistic and cultural context in the course of the twentieth century. This talk therefore argues that Zweig’s works must be considered not only as exile literature but as “literature in exile.” It thus showcases the intricate and problematic interrelations of exile literature and world literature and explores new perspectives for an urgently needed re-conceptualization of these contested concepts.

The talk will be hosted by the Walter A. Berendsohn Forschungsstelle für deutsche Exilliteratur, a research center dedicated to exile literature at the University of Hamburg, which has been re-named in 2001 after one of the pioneers of academic research into literature by exiled German-language writers.

Walter A. Berendsohn (1884-1984) had been a professor of literary studies at the University of Hamburg who escaped the Nazis by fleeing to Denmark and Sweden. Adverse university politics prevented him from returning to Hamburg even after 1945. Only in 1983, almost hundred years old, he was awarded an honorary doctorate.

Berendsohn had already prominently pointed out the close relationship between exile literature and world literature, which is also one of the main research areas of the center. Focusing on historical as well as contemporary experiences of exile, the team around Prof. Doerte Bischoff, who was appointed the research center’s head in 2011, is giving a fresh impetus into a field which, given the current European “refugee crisis,” pertains to one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Talk (in German) by Arnhilt Johanna Hoefle
Stefan Zweig und (Welt-)Literatur im Exil
January 26, 2016
Carl-von-Ossietzky-Lesesaal (Exilbibliothek)
Von-Melle-Park 3, 20146 Hamburg, Germany

Free admission and all welcome!

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Stefan Zweig and the Neglected Field of Adaptation Studies

As The Guardian announced two days ago, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel has just become the filmmaker’s highest-grossing film (beating The Royal Tenenbaums at $71m in 2001 and Moonrise Kingdom at $68m in 2012) by breaking the $100m mark while global box office taking rising (interestingly with the most enthusiastic audiences in the UK and France).

Apart from its stellar cast and Anderson’s usual cinematographic playfulness, the film has received considerable attention due to its “inspiration” from the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942). Apart from the closing credits referring to Zweig, Wes Anderson has supported his claim in various interviews. Extracts of his conversation with George Prochnik, whose biography of Zweig with the title The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World will be published by Other Press in May this year, have been published by The Telegraph under the title “I stole from Stefan Zweig”. It has been included in full in The Society of the Crossed Keys, a new compilation of writings by Stefan Zweig, which takes its name from the fictional secret society of master concierges in Anderson’s film, published by Pushkin Press and selected by Wes Anderson according to their inspirational value.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has undoubtedly sparked the most recent re-discovery of Stefan Zweig among the British readership. It has also launched a true treasure hunt for allegedly Zweig-inspired elements in the film among Zweig enthusiasts, reaching from moustaches to experiences of war and exile, high society settings with Central European flair and pastry to sophisticated narrative techniques (mis en abyme). Furthermore, this successful case of what could be called “literary adaptation” in its wildest and widest sense beautifully showcases the interconnectedness of literature and film. The field of adaptation studies indeed represents an important genre in 20th-century cultural production but has received surprisingly little scholarly interest. It has rather been treated as an orphan trapped between literature and film studies. Throughout the century adaptations of Austrian literature, in particular, have generated outstanding success stories, ranging from Max Ophühls’ adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s most famous novella in Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) and, more recently, Stanley Kubrick’s filmic version of Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle in Eyes Wide Shut (1999) to the very Grand Budapest Hotel.

One of the most recent and most fascinating scholarly contributions to the adaptation of Austrian literature is certainly Catriona Firth’s Modern Austrian Literature through the Lens of Adaptation. Analysing five canonical texts in post-war Austrian literature and their Austrian filmic counterparts, Firth proposes an innovative interdisciplinary approach which aims to move beyond a traditionally linear conception of the adaptation process in order to understand the relationship between the two media not as a unidirectional but a more complex reciprocal transaction. Drawing on an arsenal of theoretical concepts developed within the realm of psychoanalytic film theory, the five chapters discuss Gerhard Fritsch’s Moos auf den Steinen (1956) and its adaptation by Georg Lhotzky (1968), Franz Innerhofer’s Schöne Tage (1974) and its adaptation by Fritz Lehner (1981), Gerhard Roth’s Der Stille Ozean (1980) and its adaptation by Xaver Schwarzenberger (1983), Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Ausgesperrten (1981) and its adaptation by Franz Novotny (1982), and Robert Schindel’s Gebürtig (1990) and its adaptation by Lukas Stepanik (2002). The study provides inspiring new perspectives on the literary works, on the films, the history of Austria after 1945 and, most importantly, on the methodology of adaptation studies.

Read my review of Modern Austrian Literature through the Lens of Adaptation in the most recent issue of the Journal of Austrian Studies.

From Germanic & Romance to Modern Languages: the controversial (re)launch of an Institute

On Saturday, 7 December 2013, the former Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies will be (re)launched under its new name, the Institute of Modern Languages Research. The renaming was one result of the recent HEFCE review of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, based on the claim that the former name apparently did not “reflect correctly its future focus and remit”.

The issue met with considerable opposition, in particular within the UK’s German studies community, and serious concern was raised referring to the longstanding history of the Institute, the current problematic developments in the country and the future of German studies.

The Institute has now invited to what it calls “a day of debate and discussion” on post-national modern languages, featuring roundtable discussions on topics such as “Spaces: Iberian and Latin American Connections and Disconnections”, “New Directions in German Studies”, “Post-Colonialism, the Transnational and Translation”, “AHRC Themes (Translating Cultures, Science and Culture”. Furthermore, the work at the Institute will be showcased, including a postgraduate poster session, where I will present my project on the reception of Stefan Zweig in China.