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!


Guest Lecture: Prof. Mark Gamsa on Translation and Intellectual Geography


Prof. Mark Gamsa (Tel Aviv University)
Translation and Intellectual Geography: Lu Xun’s Engagement with Gogol’s Dead Souls

Date: Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Time: 18:30
Location: SIN 1, at the Department for East Asian Studies/Chinese Studies

This talk presents a new article, due to be published in the next issue of the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture. It traces the previously unstudied history of the publication in Shanghai in 1936 of an album of illustrations for Nikolai Gogol’s novel Dead Souls. Lu Xun, the leading writer of modern China, who was then in the last year of his life, was closely involved in this publishing project while engaged in the re-translation of the Russian novel into Chinese via German and Japanese. The person who acquired the rare album and translated its introduction and the captions of the illustrations directly from the Russian was Meng Shihuan, a young collaborator of Lu Xun: a forgotten agent in the dissemination of Russian literature in China. Through a close reading of Lu Xun’s speculations about the previous owner of the Russian book, which Meng had discovered and acquired in a Shanghai bookstore, I will explain my understanding of translation as part of the history of cross-cultural contact and show how attention to new methodologies of book history and intellectual geography can help us rethink these issues.

Mark Gamsa is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at Tel Aviv University, where he teaches modern Chinese history and literature. He is the author of The Chinese Translation of Russian Literature: Three Studies (Brill, 2008) and The Reading of Russian Literature in China: A Moral Example and Manual of Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Beyond his specialization in Russian-Chinese relations, he is interested in the modern history of both these countries; global history; European-Asian contacts and the cultural history of translation. He is now completing a book on the Russian-Chinese encounter in Manchuria, with a focus on the city of Harbin.

New Publication: The Liberating Masculinity of Goethe’s Werther and Its Repression in Modern China

Guo Moruo’s translation of Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) in 1922 triggered a large-scale “Werther fever” in China. As “the bible of modern Chinese youth,” Werther soon became an icon of the New Culture Movement, an intellectual movement of the 1910s and 1920s that turned against the traditional feudal ways of Chinese society.

In this chapter, recently published in the volume Gendered Encounters between Germany and Asia: Transnational Perspectives since 1800, I trace the rise and demise of Werther in modern China through the lens of gender. Quite surprisingly, gender, and in particular masculinities, is a perspective that has been almost entirely neglected in studies on this crucial moment of German-Chinese literary relations so far.

Re-reading Chinese literary works of the period, I argue that  Werther’s uncontrolled emotionality dangerously trespassed both traditional Chinese concepts of masculinity, wen (cultural attainment) and wu (martial valor), and thus represented a liberating counter-image that needed to be contained. First replaced by female Werther figures, Chinese writers of the 1930s harshly parodied the sentimental man.

Mao Dun’s Midnight (Ziye) and Ba Jin’s Family (Jia), two of the most influential modern Chinese novels, are among the key texts of the analysis. The repression of Werther’s masculinity in these works, I conclude, sheds light on a more complex and even paradox process of negotiating gender roles at a historical crossroads.

Gendered Encounters is the second volume published in the newly launched Palgrave Series in Asian German Studies. Dedicated to this new interdisciplinary field, it focuses on the multi-faceted dimensions of ties between the German-speaking world and Asian countries over the past two centuries.


Arnhilt Johanna Hoefle, “The Liberating Masculinity of Goethe’s Werther and Its Repression in Modern China,” in Gendered Encounters between Germany and Asia: Transnational Perspectives since 1800, edited by Joanne Miyang Cho and Douglas T. McGetchin, 151-169. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.