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The great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was a master anatomist of the deceitful heart, and Beware of Pity, the only novel he published during his lifetime, uncovers the seed of selfishness within even the finest of feelings. Hofmiller, an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at the edge of the empire, is invited to a party at the home of a rich local landowner, a world The great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was a master anatomist of the deceitful heart, and Beware of Pity, the only novel he published during his lifetime, uncovers the seed of selfishness within even the finest of feelings. Hofmiller, an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at the edge of the empire, is invited to a party at the home of a rich local landowner, a world away from the dreary routine of the barracks. The surroundings are glamorous, wine flows freely, and the exhilarated young Hofmiller asks his host's lovely daughter for a dance, only to discover that sickness has left her painfully crippled. It is a minor blunder that will destroy his life, as pity and guilt gradually implicate him in a well-meaning but tragically wrongheaded plot to restore the unhappy invalid to health. "Stefan Zweig was a dark and unorthodox artist; it's good to have him back."--Salman Rushdie


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The great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was a master anatomist of the deceitful heart, and Beware of Pity, the only novel he published during his lifetime, uncovers the seed of selfishness within even the finest of feelings. Hofmiller, an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at the edge of the empire, is invited to a party at the home of a rich local landowner, a world The great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was a master anatomist of the deceitful heart, and Beware of Pity, the only novel he published during his lifetime, uncovers the seed of selfishness within even the finest of feelings. Hofmiller, an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at the edge of the empire, is invited to a party at the home of a rich local landowner, a world away from the dreary routine of the barracks. The surroundings are glamorous, wine flows freely, and the exhilarated young Hofmiller asks his host's lovely daughter for a dance, only to discover that sickness has left her painfully crippled. It is a minor blunder that will destroy his life, as pity and guilt gradually implicate him in a well-meaning but tragically wrongheaded plot to restore the unhappy invalid to health. "Stefan Zweig was a dark and unorthodox artist; it's good to have him back."--Salman Rushdie

30 review for Beware of Pity (New York Review Books Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Did you enjoy Wes Anderson's film The Grand Hotel Budapest? Did you become entranced—as I did—by its nostalgia for the Austro-Hungarian Empire in those moonlight days before the Great War? Beware of Pity (1939), the novel which inspired the film, was written by Stefan Zweig--in exile, in London—during the time when the Nazis occupied his beloved Vienna, when Germany subsumed Austria into itself, and Austria--alas!--was no more. How ironic: at the very moment Zweig was mourning the cultural demis Did you enjoy Wes Anderson's film The Grand Hotel Budapest? Did you become entranced—as I did—by its nostalgia for the Austro-Hungarian Empire in those moonlight days before the Great War? Beware of Pity (1939), the novel which inspired the film, was written by Stefan Zweig--in exile, in London—during the time when the Nazis occupied his beloved Vienna, when Germany subsumed Austria into itself, and Austria--alas!--was no more. How ironic: at the very moment Zweig was mourning the cultural demise of the cosmopolitan empire of twenty-five years ago, Hitler was accomplishing the political death of the country on which it had been built, the present day republic that was his home. Zweig was indeed a man of ironies. He was a name-dropper, a frequenter of fashionable cafes who fiercely guarded his privacy; he was a celebrated writer of popular fiction who yearned for artistic recognition; he was a husband who treated his wife as a secretary, then divorced her to marry his secretary; he was a Jew who considered his Judaism “an accident of birth,” a Jew who never thought of himself as a Jew until Hitler classified him as such, who even then declined to denounce the Third Reich with vigor, preferring to remain “objective”; and he was a cosmopolite comfortable in all cities of the world until the Nazis barred him from the comforts of his own city Vienna: he despaired, and, together with his second wife, killed himself with barbituates, in Petropolis, the "Imperial City" of Brazil, in 1942. The title of this novel—and its overriding theme—Beware of Pity--has its ironies too. How can pity—the exercise of simple human compassion—be considered a corrosive force?And why would a man like Zweig, wounded by a pitiless tyrant, choose the dangers of pity for his theme? The novel tells the story of a young Austrian lieutenant, Anton Hoffmiller, who, invited to the home of the great landowner Kekesfalva, performs the gentlemanly gesture of asking his host's daughter to dance. When she bursts into tears, he realizes that the young lady's legs are paralyzed. Humiliated, he immediately flees from the house, but sends her a dozen roses the next day. So begins a series of visits—motivated primarily by pity—which lead to disaster, not only for Lieutenant Hoffmiller, but for the Kekesfalva family too. Zweig's reputation rests primarily on his novellas--”Letter from an Unknown Woman” and “The Royal Game” are masterpieces of the form—and some critics have faulted this, his only novel, as a novella padded to novel length by the addition of a few irrelevant stories. I disagree. Each of these subordinate narratives—about the landowner's fortune, the physician's marriage, the courtship of the officer turned waiter--presents a glimpse into the dynamics of male/female relationships, and how—for good or for ill—such relationships may be altered by pity. The novel would be poorer without these stories: like mirrors, they flash moonlight upon the surface of events, illuminating poor Hoffmiller's dilemma. The tale is compelling, and there were even a few moments (two moments, to be precise) that had me gasping (small gasps, but real gasps), my hand raised to my mouth. The general course of the narrative may be tragically predictable, but there are plenty of little surprises--and pleasures--to be encountered along the way. And of course, there is the moonlight which suffuses all: that seductive, antique Austrian atmosphere, which pities little and yet forgives everything.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    Zweig is a master of the novella, and his mastery shows in BEWARE OF PITY, which unfortunately is a novel. Were this 130 pages long, it would have been salvageable (not CHESS STORY level, but what is?), but the excitement of the Zweigian opening (an author, a stranger, a story within-a-story) began to diminish when it became clear that this wasn't a novel with multiple parts. Here is the spoiler-free plot, in full: a poor cavalry officer sees a beautiful woman in town, finagles an invitation to Zweig is a master of the novella, and his mastery shows in BEWARE OF PITY, which unfortunately is a novel. Were this 130 pages long, it would have been salvageable (not CHESS STORY level, but what is?), but the excitement of the Zweigian opening (an author, a stranger, a story within-a-story) began to diminish when it became clear that this wasn't a novel with multiple parts. Here is the spoiler-free plot, in full: a poor cavalry officer sees a beautiful woman in town, finagles an invitation to a dinner party she'll be attending at the richest mansion in the area, asks the daughter of the house to dance, is confused when she screams in horror, finds out she is paralyzed, keeps going back to the house because he feels bad for her while conveniently ignoring about 3 salient plot-points for which Zwieg maddeningly delays the reveal; is begged on all sides to continue to be nice to her while he is trapped in an escalating series of lies; completely ignores his initial infatuation with the beautiful woman, the girl's cousin (written off in a parenthetical about this long); keeps sneaking away in shame only to be convinced to return by various people about town; hears versions of the expression "beware of pity" approx. 100 times. It's a bit like a filler Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, now that I see it written out. Zweig's central question is: do the disabled deserve love? This reminds me a bit of The Captive in Proust, which is another melodrama that revolves around an author's misconception of the world, but here the misconception is, yes, offensive, and Zweig isn't a good enough writer to find his way out of it. This is decidedly NOT a love story. Every time the protagonist cringes in horror at the sound of tapping crutches or the sight of the girl being wheeled around, we cringe too: for Zweig. I have seen this character defended as an aspect of the time in other reviews, but we turn to writers to be ahead of their time in one thing and one thing only: psychological insight. The best parts of B.O.P. are the stories within it - the origin of the girl's father; a traveling sequence that is great until a "gypsy prophecy" sets in; that stunning opening. It has a preoccupation with suicide that is, of course, upsetting in retrospect. And I never put it down, because as with all Zweig, the world is pleasing to be in. But the false promise of the opening is never answered (this is a novel about a war hero that will never show us war), and it's all something of a trudge. 2.51, and I only rounded up for an excellent 5 page essay in the last third about what it's like when someone has a crush on you. Tempted to knock it down for the stranger on the subway who praised the "gripping action" and "brilliant characters" for 5 straight stops when he saw what I was reading even though my headphones were in, but I suppose we'll leave him out of it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    Truth in advertising: the title tells us exactly what this book is about. It’s set in Austria in peacetime in 1914 in the time leading up to WW I. A young cavalry officer is invited to a party at the home of the most wealthy family in the town he is stationed in. He sees his host’s daughter sitting with women, her legs covered by a blanket. Unaware that her disfigured legs are useless, he asks her to dance (he’s 25; she’s about 18). Everything goes downhill from there. The young woman falls in l Truth in advertising: the title tells us exactly what this book is about. It’s set in Austria in peacetime in 1914 in the time leading up to WW I. A young cavalry officer is invited to a party at the home of the most wealthy family in the town he is stationed in. He sees his host’s daughter sitting with women, her legs covered by a blanket. Unaware that her disfigured legs are useless, he asks her to dance (he’s 25; she’s about 18). Everything goes downhill from there. The young woman falls in love with the officer. Her elderly father essentially begs him to marry her with the incentive of inheriting his money. The officer is also egged on by the doctor of the young woman. Years ago, the doctor married a blind woman, essentially out of pity at not being able to “cure” her, and that worked out fine. Part of the value of this book is seeing the sea change in attitudes toward people with physical challenges. As hard as it us for us to believe, it’s a shock to the officer to finally realize (my words) “What! A ‘pathetic cripple’ and a ‘hapless invalid’ like her [he thinks of her using those words] can have human feelings like falling in love? Who would have thought?” Even more shocking is how the young woman absorbs those attitudes and values. She writes to the officer in a letter: “A lame creature, a cripple like myself, has no right to love. How should I, broken, shattered being that I am, be anything but a burden to you, when to myself I am an object of disgust, of loathing. A creature such as I, I know, has no right to love, and certainly no right to be loved.” The officer comes to realize that “…pity, like morphia, is a solace to the invalid, a remedy, a drug, but unless you know the correct dosage and when to stop, it becomes a virulent poison.” “…my astonishment at the thought that I, a commonplace, unsophisticated young officer, should really have the power to make someone else so happy knew no bounds.” “It is never until one realizes that one means something to others that one feels there is any point or purpose in one’s own existence.” As their relationship progresses, the officer becomes what we would call today, ‘manic depressive.’ Within a couple of pages we read of his highs and lows: “On that evening I was God. I had created the world and lo! It was full of goodness and justice. I had created a human being, her forehead gleamed like the morning and a rainbow of happiness was mirrored in her eyes.” A few pages later: “I was no longer God, but a puny, pitiable human being, whose blackguardly weakness did nothing but harm, whose pity wrought nothing but havoc and misery.” The paperback edition I read gives away the ending on the back cover, so I’ll give it here but hide it in a spoiler (it’s not pretty): (view spoiler)[ The officer eventually becomes engaged to her but breaks it off and the young woman kills herself. (hide spoiler)] The book is by Stefan Zweig, so we get great writing. It’s translated from the German. There are breaks in the writing but no chapters. At 350 pages, it’s Zweig’s longest novel, written in 1938 in his London exile before he moved to Brazil. Very much a psychological novel, it’s a good read. Top image of Austrian cavalry officers in WW I from http://m.cdn.blog.hu/na/nagyhaboru/im... Photo of the author from alteruemliches.at

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Beware of Pity, Zweig's one and only novel, was a book that had eluded me for quite some time, but learning of a new translation by Oxford Academic Dr Jonathan Katz (who has worked on writings by Goethe and Joseph Roth), I followed through and got hold of a copy whilst on a trip back to my home City of Bath, and as things would have it, I also learned Zweig actually stayed in Bath for a time after fleeing mainland Europe during the war. Reading 'Impatience of the Heart' was well worth the wait, Beware of Pity, Zweig's one and only novel, was a book that had eluded me for quite some time, but learning of a new translation by Oxford Academic Dr Jonathan Katz (who has worked on writings by Goethe and Joseph Roth), I followed through and got hold of a copy whilst on a trip back to my home City of Bath, and as things would have it, I also learned Zweig actually stayed in Bath for a time after fleeing mainland Europe during the war. Reading 'Impatience of the Heart' was well worth the wait, I would put it up there with one of the best novels I have ever read, It captivated me from first page to the last, with moments that had me wanting to look the other way, through it's depiction of pity. This is a story of painful and almost unbearable disillusionment swept along with a saddening nostalgia, composed by Zweig over a period of years and completed by 1938, in which a young Austrian cavalry officer, Hofmiller, befriends a local millionaire, Kekesfalva, and his family, but in particular the old man's crippled daughter, Edith (a character I will simply never forget) and the terrible consequences that follow a moment of sheer horror for the officer at a dance, thus a chain of events are triggered that Hofmiller due to his weak minded pity can not escape from. I don't want to link Zweig with Hitchcock, but there were moments of utter tension that had me peeping through my fingers in trepidation at what might or might not happen. There is also an interior psychological precision that shows just how sharply Zweig could pay attention to his characters inner workings, and this he pulls off as good as anything else I have come across, here is a man 'Hofmiller the hero', on whom everything is lost, in more than one sense of the phrase. When first introduced to a decorated Hofmiller many years later in a cafe he spills his history to a novelist (the framing narrator) whom we may as well assume to be Zweig himself, he treats his decoration, the greatest military order Austria can bestow, with disdain bordering on contempt, and only speaks to the narrator when they meet accidentally at a dinner party later on. After this point, we should realise that the message of the book is not only the ostensible one, that pity is an emotion that can cause great ruin, but also that we must not judge things by appearances. Hofmiller, in his case, what others might regard as courage is actually the result of a monumental act of cowardice which will burden his soul for eternity. Others have viewed this work as actually two novellas of unequal length stitched together, there is an entire back story as to how Kekesfalva obtained his wealth, but this only adds depth, it doesn't read as though it could benefit from any trimming, and something I did notice was the fact this contained no chapters, or breaks in writing, keeping a continually flowing narrative. From front to back it's a novel, pure and simple. It's length for some may be an issue. Me, I would have gladly read another 200 pages of this, and this coming from someone who is normally put off reading huge novels. Kekesfalva, along with daughters Ilona and Edith played such a despairing role in the narrative, I spend the whole time just praying their outcome would be a good one, I felt everything they were going through, down to the finest details. Crippled Edith, I can't think of any other literary character that has had such an impact on me, my own pity for her was tenfold. Albeit in a complex and ambiguous fashion, when Hofmiller discovers, to his horror, that Edith has sexual desires for him, his existence spirals into chaos, in fact, if it didn't sound so off-putting, "Disillusionment" could be a perfectly plausible title for the novel (to go with Zweig's other one-word titles for some of his novellas: "Amok", "Confusion" or "Angst"). Beware of Pity has passages of high melodrama that had an immense power to make me put a hand over my gasping mouth, something that I can't think I have ever done before whilst reading a novel. A masterpiece.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David

    Disclaimer: Despite whatever I say in the following review, and no matter how much I mock Beware of Pity, I did actually enjoy it. To a limited extent. Stefan Zweig is an enormous drama queen. Every emotion in his novel Beware of Pity is hyperbolic, neon-lit, hammy. His narrator doesn't feel anything as prosaic as mere mere joy. No way. He's more apt to be 'blithe as a twittering bird.' People aren't only surprised; their faces turn white as a specter, their legs threaten to give way, and their w Disclaimer: Despite whatever I say in the following review, and no matter how much I mock Beware of Pity, I did actually enjoy it. To a limited extent. Stefan Zweig is an enormous drama queen. Every emotion in his novel Beware of Pity is hyperbolic, neon-lit, hammy. His narrator doesn't feel anything as prosaic as mere mere joy. No way. He's more apt to be 'blithe as a twittering bird.' People aren't only surprised; their faces turn white as a specter, their legs threaten to give way, and their whole being roils with inner turbulence. And these reactions aren't even for big surprises—like, I don't know, World War I—but rather for banal things like the mail being late and the improper buttoning of one's dinner jacket. (I'm slightly exaggerating. But only very slightly.) This book was written in the 1930s. If you didn't know that, however, you'd be just as likely to think it was written in the 1830s. Stylistically speaking, Zweig completely missed the memo on literary modernism. It's as if it never happened. He embraces the hopelessly stodgy language [at this in translated form] and hyperdescription of the (worst of the) 19th century. There is no emotion or thought or physical appearance which manifests an emotion or thought that he will not describe into the fucking ground. He bombards you with loooong paragraphs seeking to explain the most obvious and commonplace emotional responses to you (again, in hyperbolic form) as if you are a cyborg who is newly assimilating human experience. In other words, Zweig thinks you're a moron. He doesn't trust you to know what embarrassment, hand-holding, intoxication, guilt, or hearing strange noises feels like. But he'll try his damndest to explain 'em all to ya, ya inexperienced rube. Have you been living in your bubble boy bubble all these years? Zweig's got your ass covered. If you trimmed all the fat, this novel probably would have been one hundred pages instead of 350. And that's a conservative estimate of the editorial purges required. But the story at the center of all this prissy, rococo language is... yes, interesting. The narrator recounts (at length) how as a twenty-five-year-old lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army, he met this young crippled woman and accidentally asked her to dance at a party. Oops! (Can you imagine the descriptions of his profound embarrassment? He actually FLEES the party. Total elbows and ass goin' on here.) This minor incident sets off a chain of melodramatic events in which his pity for the absurd little cripple ruins him. His pity takes over his whole life. He actually makes a career of it. He just spends all his time kissing the ass of this incredibly bitchy crippled girl. (view spoiler)[(There is an unintentionally hilarious scene near the end when the cripple's love for the narrator seems to heal her! She's able to walk two steps! Miracle! But then she falls like a ton of bricks at his feet. Not bothering to help her, he flees again. The narrator is actually an accomplished flee-er. He does it three times during the novel.) (hide spoiler)] The melodrama is—I can't lie—occasionally nauseating. You just want to smack the living shit out of the narrator, the cripple, and everyone else because they're all so emotionally volatile all the time. They're either sweating and shaking or glowing with joy like a nuclear holocaust or trying to kill themselves. (Interesting side note: Zweig and his wife killed themselves together while living in South America just a few years after this novel was published.) The single most galling thing about this whole novel—and there are quite a few things to be galled about—is that four pages before the end, the narrator has the audacity to say: 'Melodramatic phrases revolt me.' Hahahahahahahahahaha! <--That's the laughter which accompanies madness, by the way.

  6. 5 out of 5

    İntellecta

    Stefan Zweig writes in a very beautiful language and describes the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist so aptly and comprehensibly. The book shows a touch of psychoanalysis, but also for the sake of the human soul and the effects of different types of compassion. In his subtle, imaginative language, the author creates his own world of unparalleled atmospheric density. His creatures, with the knowing maturity of the experienced human connoisseur and the compassion of the passionate philanthr Stefan Zweig writes in a very beautiful language and describes the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist so aptly and comprehensibly. The book shows a touch of psychoanalysis, but also for the sake of the human soul and the effects of different types of compassion. In his subtle, imaginative language, the author creates his own world of unparalleled atmospheric density. His creatures, with the knowing maturity of the experienced human connoisseur and the compassion of the passionate philanthropist, enter into their basic features. His narrative style is full of tension and full of drama. For me, this book is a perfect work of art. Overall this book should have been read by anyone interested in literature and it is definitely recommendable. "Keine Schuld ist vergessen, solange noch das Gewissen um sie weiß." S. 456

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    Pity. It had never dawned upon me what a double-edged feeling pity is. Neither had I dwelled for long on the ramifying consequences of actions triggered by that feeling. Compassion, generosity and benignity are considered virtues promoted by years of religious heritage and have therefore been imprinted on mankind’s consciousness from the beginning of times, but the mental processes and the tapestry of neuronal connections that generate good deeds are as inscrutable as the mosaic of celestial bod Pity. It had never dawned upon me what a double-edged feeling pity is. Neither had I dwelled for long on the ramifying consequences of actions triggered by that feeling. Compassion, generosity and benignity are considered virtues promoted by years of religious heritage and have therefore been imprinted on mankind’s consciousness from the beginning of times, but the mental processes and the tapestry of neuronal connections that generate good deeds are as inscrutable as the mosaic of celestial bodies that spray-paint the canvas of galaxies, which in turn might be invisible to fallible human eyesight but as real as the sunbeams that warm both the blind and clairvoyant countenances staring back at them. “Only those with whom life had dealt hardly, the wretched, the slighted, the uncertain, the unlovely, the humiliated, could really be helped by love.” (348) Zweig provokes the reader and makes him ponder. Doesn’t pity entail a touch of vain condescension disguised as unselfishness? Isn’t there some addictive self-indulgence irretrievably intertwined with the instinctive wish to please others in order to prove our worthiness to ourselves? Human minds work in bewildering ways and Zweig combines the sharp scalpel of his precise words with the sumptuousness of his transfixing prose to probe strenuously into the nooks and crannies of the psyche of his Freudian protagonists, unfolding the serpentine passages that give shape to the sentiment of pity. Like the dexterous magician who masters his tricks, Zweig uses the first person narrative impersonating an impressionable Lieutenant during the convoluted months previous to World War I to unravel a chain of intricate relationships that will invite the reader to contemplate the fragile boundary that separates charitableness from weakness of character. Lieutenant Anton Hofmiller finds himself entangled in a compromising situation after asking Edith Kekesfalva, the daughter of a distinguished nobleman and sole heir of his vast property, for a dance without realizing the girl is paralyzed from waist down. Plagued by guilt and moved by a disciplined sense of honor typical of the military, Anton obliges himself to visit the girl evening after evening and basking in his own righteousness to play good Samaritan he obviates the blossoming truth of a capricious and over pampered woman falling in unhinged love for the first time. Doctor Condor is known for treating all the “incurable” cases in Vienna with almost obstinate perseverance. After meeting pliant Hofmiller at the Kekesfalva’s, he discloses the decisive role that a combination of self-reproach and decency had on the widowed Mr. Kekesfalva into marrying Edith’s mother and the ensuing consequences of such an unpredictable union as an example of the power of goodwill to the gullible lieutenant. Mr. Kekesfalva’s veneration of Dr. Condor, whose godlike skills are expected to perform a scientific miracle to save Edith from her underserved impairment, is boundless. Inspired by the honorable conduct of the doctor when he married one of his blind patients after failing to fulfill his promise to heal her, Mr. Kekesfalva embraces the young officer his daughter dotes on, hoping for another unlikely miracle to happen. Credulous Hofmiller absorbs the conflicting emotions arising in him, allowing to be whirled around by the currents of gratification that flow from self-pity and remorse. Trying to edge his way around these feelings, he can’t avoid being caught up in a definite, concerted and yet seemingly aimless conspiracy run by fate. But history has a humbling lesson to teach him when collective atrocity strikes with WWI and petty individual turmoil is implacably buried under the weight of mass killing and cosmic destruction, making Hofmiller aware of his own insignificance and erasing all notions of grandiosity and masked integrity. How much can be inferred from Hofmiller’s lack of resolution to face his failures in relation to Zweig’s despairing surrender over the overpowering sadness that took hold of him after being banished from his home, robbed of his golden memories and even estranged from his own identity? Behind the gloss of Zweig’s flawless writing, there is the deafening roaring of a mourning waterfall that soaks the reader and yet somehow leaves him dry as a bone. A dense silence of parching deluge preys upon the reader with torrential questions and a drought of answers. Pity or vanity? Need for validation or hedonistic egocentrism? Honest sympathy or hollow pretence? You can enter the revolving door of Zweig’s mind and run the risk of finding your own answer, but you’d better be ready to face the turned mirror of conscience and swallow the bitter fear of being found out. It's all so very simple in the end, you only need to brace yourself, take a deep breath and Beware of Pity.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kiekiat

    It is a daunting task to come late to the party and attempt to write a review of a book that already has 766 reviews. What more can I add to the story? Anyone doing even a cursory read of past reviews can quickly surmise what this book is about. It is the first fiction I've ever read by Stefan Zweig, but certainly not the last. I have read about half of his biography of Magellan, which I intend to finish some day and found quite good. I was reading it in Thailand and moved on to the Philippines, It is a daunting task to come late to the party and attempt to write a review of a book that already has 766 reviews. What more can I add to the story? Anyone doing even a cursory read of past reviews can quickly surmise what this book is about. It is the first fiction I've ever read by Stefan Zweig, but certainly not the last. I have read about half of his biography of Magellan, which I intend to finish some day and found quite good. I was reading it in Thailand and moved on to the Philippines, and there is something about the Philippines that causes me to lose all interest in reading books. Like many other works, this had been vegetating on one of my bookshelves for five or six years. My reading habits, which I thought were peculiar to me, turn out to be commonplace based on what I've read on Goodreads. That is, I tend to choose the next book I want to read based on no systematic way, but as my inclinations lead me. I enjoyed 'Beware of Pity' and appreciated the fine writing of Stefan Zweig. As a much earlier reviewer said, his writing is clear and to-the-point and I tend to agree that the digressions in this book were not padding. They helped shaped the novel and give it more clarity. The forward indicated that Zweig was a friend of Freud's and also noted that Stephen Spender, among others, had accused Zweig of writing 'Beware of Pity' as a sort of "case study,' rather than as an actual novel telling a story. With all due respect to Stephen Spender, whose intellect far surpasses mine, I do not concur with this assessment at all. I can well imagine Zweig discussing psychological issues with Freud because his novel is certainly filled with some deep psychology. I disagree that this is a "case study," however, because anyone familiar with Freud's case studies knows that he always traces the person's trauma to some occurrence in childhood, or some unfulfilled childhood wish. There is none of this in 'Beware of Pity' and we are told little by the narrator about his childhood other than he grew up in a family without much means and the military was a good choice for making a career given his family's straitened circumstances. There is no mention of any trauma and not even a hint or suggestion of such. A person writing a "case study" would tie the narrator's obsessive, uncontrollable pity for the girl to some incident in his past. Since Zweig does not do this, I don't think this novel deserves to be called a "case study." Rather, it is a work that demonstrates how a seemingly insignificant event can result in someone winding up in a situation fraught with psychological turmoil, particularly if that individual has a weak character and is easily manipulated. The novel's psychological richness, in my opinion, lies in the conflicting feelings the narrator has; where on one hand he exults that he is doing a noble thing by visiting the girl and her family and lifting their spirits, while on the other he despises the fix he is in and is constantly scheming how to extricate himself from the commitment he has foolishly entered into. Thus we have a fellow who is just a commonplace military officer, not given to self-reflection, suddenly having to face this psychological Sturm und Drang which he is ill-equipped to handle exactly because he is not a person accustomed to self-reflection and deep psychological pondering. It is in this conflict, especially as the book nears the end, that Zweig's talks with Freud must have borne fruit. The tension the narrator feels as he tries to find a way out of the maelstrom mounts to the point where he is in a frenzy to escape. Reading it left me on edge and I was nearly as discommoded as the narrator. I could easily imagine Hitchcock working this story into a compelling film. I regret that Stefan Zweig wrote no more novels, but am glad there is still a body of his work for me to savor.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rakhi Dalal

    The word ‘Pity’ is quite a powerful word. It is charged with the evocation of that emotion which surfaces when one witnesses human suffering in any form; an emotion which leads to feeling of compassion and sympathy. So to feel pity over someone’s misfortune or suffering is essentially human. But what does the feeling of pity really employs? Is it only a positive emotion which paves the way for better understanding of humans and their sufferings? Or can it be an emotion which arises solely from t The word ‘Pity’ is quite a powerful word. It is charged with the evocation of that emotion which surfaces when one witnesses human suffering in any form; an emotion which leads to feeling of compassion and sympathy. So to feel pity over someone’s misfortune or suffering is essentially human. But what does the feeling of pity really employs? Is it only a positive emotion which paves the way for better understanding of humans and their sufferings? Or can it be an emotion which arises solely from the awareness of one’s good fortune when compared with the misfortunes of many others? Can it be an emotion which may let us sympathize with those suffering but may make us indifferent when presented with uncomfortable situations while dealing with them? Can someone, who acts only out of ‘pity’ for someone, be held responsible if he fails to meet unseen expectations arising from his acts of pity? Can there be a limit as to what extent a person may engage due to pity? Can a person really only act out of pity for someone over a longer period? Alternatively, does a person who has suffered much over a long period of time take kindly to such acts of pity? Can such acts invoke anger on the part of sufferer? Who is to judge then when a person, in the heat of much compassion, engages in actions which may prove further fatal for the sufferer. These are the questions that this work raises in mind. For me, it is a hugely loaded word and which I really view with some skepticism. A genuine concern and empathy are held much higher in regard than merely pity. As always, Zweig’s writing is brilliant and captivating. There is never a dull moment in the work. You are constantly engaged and on the edge. I didn’t find a single character in the work likable, for each of them lived in their own worlds, intoxicated with ideas that best suited them. It was like a ride through a kindergarten where all the kids were engaged in their own make belief world and resorted to whining when disagreed with or brought to reality. But Zweig’s masterful hand has rendered their portrayal a lifelike quality which lets you marvel at the complexity of human nature and compels you to look within and question your ideas.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    My friend and I both pity the homeless, but I prefer to do it from a distance. My friend isn't like that. He likes to put money in cup. Through the years, his insistence on an actual physical exchange has grown exponentially. It was one thing to raise the gift from $1 to $2 to $5 and then $10. But then even that changed. We drifted apart and then slowly saw each other again. Walking back to our jobs after lunch after renewing our friendship we passed a homeless man that we had passed many times My friend and I both pity the homeless, but I prefer to do it from a distance. My friend isn't like that. He likes to put money in cup. Through the years, his insistence on an actual physical exchange has grown exponentially. It was one thing to raise the gift from $1 to $2 to $5 and then $10. But then even that changed. We drifted apart and then slowly saw each other again. Walking back to our jobs after lunch after renewing our friendship we passed a homeless man that we had passed many times in the past. He provoked genuine sympathy, standing on one leg only and a crutch. It was no longer enough now for my friend to drop bills in cup. He made a point of standing ceremoniously, extending his hand for a shake and addressing the man by name. The man said nothing in return, not even smiling at the crisp new bill. Beware of pity. It is an exchange. Readers of novels, do not linger on the man consumed with Liberal guilt. Instead think of our one-legged man. Make him smart. Or devious. Or rebellious, kindly, heroic. Make him barely functional if you want. What does he make of the pin-striped man, bowing like Hirohito on that ship? Perhaps, like me, he appreciates the gesture. But probably it means nothing. Although...... What if he feels the pity behind the gesture, like a knife? Any one of us, homeless or not, has felt that. But what if he was just smart enough to be fooled and thought he was going to the suburbs for dinner? or would be offered a job? would be asked to be a Godfather? could date a daughter? _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ Oh, the book? Well, it's about Pity, from both sides of the exchange. I won't tell you the plot. You can find it everywhere, in the description of the book and in almost every review. I liked the storytelling but not the story. If that makes sense. I was warned that it might be too drawing-room for me. I didn't know exactly what that meant until I read this and realized it was too drawing-room for me. It made me think of Pity. Not made-for-TV movies Pity with Lieutenants and noblemen's daughters, good-looking horses and, well, I think you have to fit Kiera Knightley in there somewhere. Not perfumed, inchoate love. No, it made me think of Pity on a city street, in a job, in a friendship. It made me think of Pity in a room by myself. Even then, maybe especially then, it's always an exchange.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    BEWARE OF PITY (Ungeduld des Herzens, orig. title in German) [revised 10/21/17] Pick up a bee from kindness, and learn the limitations of kindness. Sufi Proverb Upon finishing this, Stefan Zweig's only completed novel, after reading his memoir, The World of Yesterday, I've found that the Austrian Zweig was one of those singularly gifted observers of the human condition, that come along maybe only once a generation, able to regularly discern the profound in the mundane as if such a talent came like r BEWARE OF PITY (Ungeduld des Herzens, orig. title in German) [revised 10/21/17] Pick up a bee from kindness, and learn the limitations of kindness. Sufi Proverb Upon finishing this, Stefan Zweig's only completed novel, after reading his memoir, The World of Yesterday, I've found that the Austrian Zweig was one of those singularly gifted observers of the human condition, that come along maybe only once a generation, able to regularly discern the profound in the mundane as if such a talent came like riding a bicycle. Beware of Pity sated my love for an exploration of human emotions I've not yet encountered in a story but have experienced in the real world. First was pity, and the negative that can flow therefrom. Second is the feeling of having someone in love with you at a time in youth when you want nothing to do with her/him. Though I'd of course encountered the emotion of pity in other novels, none had made it a central theme and covered it like this novel did. As for the second--see Zweig's brilliant quote below--I look back with deep regret at how mean and callous I was to the girl, and think how I'd have handled it differently. I'd not seen this fleshed out in a story from the viewpoint of the *unloving beloved* before this one. The surface moral of this novel is laid out by its title: pity, as an emotion, can result in disaster. The deeper message seems the old maxim, you cannot judge a book by its cover. Hofmiller may wear the medal of the Military Order of Maria Theresa--the highest military decoration Austria could offer, equivalent to the Victoria Cross in Great Britain and the U.S.'s Medal of Honor--but he is plagued by his knowledge that his badge of "courage" actually came from a colossal act of cowardice. The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's popularity seems to be making a bit of a comeback, with the new publication of a number of his novellas and his memoir The World of Yesterday in which his writing shines. According to a number of sources, when this novel was published in 1939, Zweig was likely the most popular author in the world, for his short stories, novellas and biographies of famous people. "Beware of Pity" is the only novel he completed. He wrote it in the United States (where he arrived in 1935) and then England (1938), as a Jewish refugee from Nazi persecution. He and his wife moved to Brazil in 1942 and shortly thereafter committed suicide together. The story is set in Austria, mostly as it was on the brink of World War I. The tale is told though through a framing narrator (presumably Zweig) who meets the famously decorated cavalry lieutenant Anton Hofmiller at a social function. The narrator asks about the lieutenant's decoration as a hero of WW I, the Military Order of Maria Theresa, which Hofmiller disdains. To explain why, he must take the narrator (and readers) back to the time he was invited to the castle of an immensely wealthy Hungarian named Lajos Kekesfalva. There, he asked the old man's crippled daughter to dance. A spoiled girl in her late teens, she throws a fit. Feeling pity for the girl, Hofmiller makes trips to see the Kekesfalvas nearly every day for an extended period. He is a man who gets nearly everything wrong: his gaffe that ultimately leads to awful consequences, believing Kekesfalva was a nobleman, and thinking the girl's doctor was incompetent, and leading the girl to believe she and he were engaged to be married only to deny it later in the evening, fearful of what his peers may think of him. The "Torment" of Being "Loved Against Your Will "a worse torment, perhaps, than feeling love and desire...is to be loved against your will, when you cannot defend yourself against the passion thrust upon you. It is worse to see someone beside herself, burning with the flames of desire, and stand by powerless, unable to find the strength to snatch her from the fire. If you are unhappily in love yourself, you may sometimes be able to tame your passion because you are the author of your own unhappiness, not just its creature. If a lover can't control his passion then at least his suffering is his own fault. But there is nothing someone who is loved and does not love in return can do about it since it is beyond his own power to determine the extent and limits of that love and no willpower of his own can keep someone else from loving him." Beware of Pity, Stefan Zweig

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    My love affair with Stefan Zweig’s work continues! With his elegant prose and sharp insight, he conjured up the most vivid characters and insane - yet completely believable stories, and “Beware of Pity” (alternately translated as “Impatience of the Heart”) is his writing at top form; funny, sour, moving, tragic and wistful. It was also his only full-length novel, finished in 1939, when he lived in exile in England. So expect his trademark nostalgia for a Europe now disfigured by totalitarianism. My love affair with Stefan Zweig’s work continues! With his elegant prose and sharp insight, he conjured up the most vivid characters and insane - yet completely believable stories, and “Beware of Pity” (alternately translated as “Impatience of the Heart”) is his writing at top form; funny, sour, moving, tragic and wistful. It was also his only full-length novel, finished in 1939, when he lived in exile in England. So expect his trademark nostalgia for a Europe now disfigured by totalitarianism. Told in a framed narrative – by a novelist who might as well be Zweig himself – this novel is the story of a young cavalry office, Lieutenant Anton Hofmiller, and of how one innocent faux pas derailed his life. In a small garrison town of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a few months before the Great War, Hofmiller is introduced to the wealthy and influential Kekesfalva family. While attending a charming soirée in their manor, he decides to courteously ask the master of the house’s daughter to dance… without having noticed that the young woman is crippled and can hardly walk, let alone waltz. Mortified, he sends her an enormous bouquet of roses as an apology, and begins to pay regular friendly visits to the family, in an attempt to atone for the embarrassment he caused the poor girl to suffer. Of course, the young girl interprets his actions and attention in a very different way, and soon, Hofmiller finds himself inextricably bound to this family… In many ways, poor Anton’s stumbling through this story is like a car crash one can’t look away from: he means well, and tries to keep up with the social standards of the class and era, and to not hurt the feelings of Edith – whom he feels has suffered enough as a consequence of her injury. But there is also an element of self-congratulation and shame there that sometimes feels very uneasy. Sure, he pays the Kekesfalvas visits because he feels awful for young Edith, but when he’s there, he is served delicious food, rare wines and given cigars, horses and opportunities galore. And while he feels bad about this bounty, he keeps going back… It’s also remarkable that despite the story’s seeming simplicity, Zweig manages to ramp up the dramatic tension to the point where the book is very hard to put down, as you never know what fresh awkwardness and its consequences he will catch you with on the next page. There is a lot to be chewed on in this book, notably regarding the meaning of the word “pity” and the effect it has in the lives of all involved. Because a line must be drawn between pity and compassion, between pity and sympathy: the nuance might be lost on some, but it is there, and it can be hard sometimes to see which shade of feeling is fuelling Hofmiller’s actions. While some of the things he does clearly come from a good place, he also ends up falling victim to emotional blackmail, conscious or not on part of the perpetrator. The young man’s ultimate conclusion, that what becomes known as his act of bravery was in fact nothing more than cowardice with unintended consequences, is also fascinating. How differently other people perceive our lives and actions when they have only a partial portrait of our motivations and context! The complexity of human beings is not something to be underestimated, and Zweig not only knew that, but also knew exactly how to put that intricateness on the page. Edith is a remarkable creation: despite her sheltered life and her physical handicap, she has a strong will and personality, and refuses to let her disability define her life. She won’t be lied to and she refuses to be mollycoddled. Of course, this is far from easy in the particular time and place she lives in, where young women of society dance and ride, and are expected to be mobile to be considered eligible. We never really get an inside view of how Hofmiller’s consideration feels to her, but I think it's safe to assume that before him, no man had paid her the slightest bit of attention, let alone extended friendship and companionship the way he has. For a young girl of eighteen, that must have been like giving water to a person tortured by thirst, both a relief and a pleasure she is not equipped to deal with rationally. That her feelings for him shock Anton made me yell at the book: how can this be a surprise, you dweeb?! I must say that Anthea Bell’s translation is gorgeous, fluid and a pleasure to read. I’ve read her translation of “The World of Yesterday” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) which was just as affecting, and the way she captures tone and wit is a delight. If you liked “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (which used the introduction of this book as a template from which to launch the zany adventure of one gangly lobby boy and a foppish concierge), or any of Zweig’s other work, do yourself a favour and read this amazing novel. This is quite simply a masterpiece.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul Blakemore

    This is one of the best books I've ever read. It does everything that really great books should do. It takes the idea of pity and really explores it as a human emotion. It left me feeling as if I might be a bit wiser about how to be a decent human being. On top of that, it is readable and I found it a bit of a page-turner due to the brilliant characters. It is so cleverly constructed too; a layering of narrative on narrative so that as each person tells a story or relates a rumour they all begin This is one of the best books I've ever read. It does everything that really great books should do. It takes the idea of pity and really explores it as a human emotion. It left me feeling as if I might be a bit wiser about how to be a decent human being. On top of that, it is readable and I found it a bit of a page-turner due to the brilliant characters. It is so cleverly constructed too; a layering of narrative on narrative so that as each person tells a story or relates a rumour they all begin to echo and resonate with each other. Even the word pity itself builds up in subtle shades of meaning so that everytime it is used it becomes like an ominous bell sounding. If the writing is criticised as being melodramatic, I took it to be a characterisation of the first person narrator. He is constantly vacillating between over-zealous despondency and naive joy. I just couldn't find a fault with this and I'm stunned that it has taken me 27 years to find Stefan Zweig. Just my type of novel: detailed, psychologically nuanced, and deep.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Parthiban Sekar

    “There are two kinds of pity. One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one at counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and “There are two kinds of pity. One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one at counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    This book was quite powerful. I do not know when I have become so emotionally involved with a story. I found myself involuntarily having conversations with the characters, lecturing them on their fatal flaws. This is a book about fatal flaws. Our protganist, Hofmiller, is an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at a small village at the edge of the empire, in what would now be Hungary. While there he encounters a wealthy family who welcomes him like a family member. Hofmiller is delighted wh This book was quite powerful. I do not know when I have become so emotionally involved with a story. I found myself involuntarily having conversations with the characters, lecturing them on their fatal flaws. This is a book about fatal flaws. Our protganist, Hofmiller, is an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at a small village at the edge of the empire, in what would now be Hungary. While there he encounters a wealthy family who welcomes him like a family member. Hofmiller is delighted while surprised and a little confused. Why have such important people included him so definitely into their life? The story is written in first person so we hear every thought Hofmiller has as he tells his tale. The family's name is Kakesfalva and Herr von Kakesfalva practically adopts Hofmiller as a son and treasured guest. Kakesfalva lives in a large estate, owns most of the property of the village and is kept company by his beautiful niece, Ilona, and his daughter, Edith. What starts out as a pleasant break from his harsh existence as a soldier gradually turns into a psychological nightmare, making his life in the barracks as a carnival in comparison. Edith is a teenager, maybe seventeen, and a few years ago, by some kind of staph infection, probably polio, lost the use of her legs. She has kept the household enslaved and miserable with her bitterness. Lashing the whip with threats of hurting herself. Her father and her cousin are completely in her thrall. Hofmiller finds himself becoming ever more entangled in this unhappy family's affairs. At first he is invited simply to keep them company and provide diversion for an otherwise weary existence. But as time passes, it becomes evident that the family all expect more from him. And here is the hero's fatal flaw. Even though he becomes more and more ill at ease visiting, he is afraid to extricate himself for fear that it would destroy Edith. This story is a brilliant discourse on emotional manipulations. Not just the manipulators but people who allow themselves to become manipulated, all because of pity. Hofmiller knows that pity is his only motivation for continuing his relationship with the family. He sees it and feels absolutely helpless. And by acting out of pity, he makes the situation worse and worse. In the end, he still does not see clearly. He thinks too poorly of the Kakesfalvas and too highly of his own ability to "save" Edith to do the right thing. I do not want to give away the plot because there are some interesting and unexpected developments that take the reader deeper into the lives of each character. But I will end with the last sentence of the book: .."no guilt is forgotten as long as the conscience still knows of it."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    I'd heard good things about Zweig but gosh, this book is unconvincing melodrama. There's the germ of a taut novella here but dragging the whole thing out to 450 pages wore me down. There's just so much of everything: some relevant, a whole load just waffle. Although written in 1938, this has the turgid feel of something far older. We might not know, from the book, that Hitler has annexed Austria and that WW2 is close to starting - instead the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, one of the cause I'd heard good things about Zweig but gosh, this book is unconvincing melodrama. There's the germ of a taut novella here but dragging the whole thing out to 450 pages wore me down. There's just so much of everything: some relevant, a whole load just waffle. Although written in 1938, this has the turgid feel of something far older. We might not know, from the book, that Hitler has annexed Austria and that WW2 is close to starting - instead the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, one of the causes of WW1, is used to interrupt the tiresome 'affair' of the paralysed Edith and her reluctant fiance, Hofmiller. The latter, supposedly a hero of WW1, shows himself to be a fool and a moral coward, passively allowing himself to be dragged into situations merely, it seems, to artificially ramp up the angst. Faced with a difficult occasion what does he do? Flee. Not once, but repeatedly. To fill out the story further, we have various tale-within-a-tale episodes as minor characters step forward to tell their own stories. There's an interesting premise here which might have made a piquant and telling novella - stretched to this overlong length, it loses direction rapidly. It was a relief to finish this.

  17. 5 out of 5

    E. G.

    Foreword Author's Note Introduction --Beware of Pity Translator's Afterword Foreword Author's Note Introduction --Beware of Pity Translator's Afterword

  18. 4 out of 5

    Calzean

    A tragedy in many senses. A tragedy for Edith for being considered a cripple and not a person. A tragedy for the Lieutenant for being so naive and trapped within the rigid world of the Austro-Hungarian army. A tragedy for Edith's father who so wanted Edith to be well. A tragedy for Edith's doctor who could see what was happening and could not prevent it. A tragedy for all for the ending. A tragedy for everyone living in their cocoon world who did not see a world war coming. Zweig is able to paint the p A tragedy in many senses. A tragedy for Edith for being considered a cripple and not a person. A tragedy for the Lieutenant for being so naive and trapped within the rigid world of the Austro-Hungarian army. A tragedy for Edith's father who so wanted Edith to be well. A tragedy for Edith's doctor who could see what was happening and could not prevent it. A tragedy for all for the ending. A tragedy for everyone living in their cocoon world who did not see a world war coming. Zweig is able to paint the picture a vivid impact of pity to both the pitier and the pitiee, the guilt derived when best intentions go wrong, when honesty is lost through immaturity and regret ends in further regret. Yes, the Lieutenant is weak emotionally, inexperienced with women and unable to see a bigger picture. Yes, the writing contains long passages of anguish, guilt, pity and dithering. But it is so well written, so tragic and so honest any weakness is covered by it's brilliance.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chuck LoPresti

    Beware of Pity is not going to please anybody that isn't willing to tolerate some anachronistic histrionics in the process of telling a pretty engaging story. The plot is fairly simple: an officer can't stand to offend so he allows himself to be manipulated by a family in need of a love-object/hero to save their invalid daughter. That alone would hardly merit 4 stars but Zweig is a great story teller and what is most important here is the psychological insights of a friend of Freud. Stepping ins Beware of Pity is not going to please anybody that isn't willing to tolerate some anachronistic histrionics in the process of telling a pretty engaging story. The plot is fairly simple: an officer can't stand to offend so he allows himself to be manipulated by a family in need of a love-object/hero to save their invalid daughter. That alone would hardly merit 4 stars but Zweig is a great story teller and what is most important here is the psychological insights of a friend of Freud. Stepping inside someone's head can be a nauseating experience. Bernhard does a similar thing in Correction - not in the same style - but with the same results. Where the characters in Correction repeat themselves, revealing the sometimes less-directed wanderings of the neurotic mind, Zweig's characters' thoughts take more of a concise but no less revealing tone. Correction and Beware of Pity both made me want to inflict horrible violence on the characters and I'm fairly certain that's not a bad thing - I enjoyed both reads. It's almost like watching a decent horror flick with a huge audience that is all screaming warnings to the hapless kill-fodder - it's silly - but it's fun. Like a drunk to the bar - our officer keeps feeding his horrible addiction to pity until tragedy strikes. I can imagine this was much more fun to read 50 years ago when moral codes and psychological insights were a bit more compelling. It also reminded me of Witkacy's Insatiability a bit in that the shock of the subject matter had greater power to challenge normalicy. Now such histrionics operate more like historical reminders than mental upheavals but that didn't stop me from turning quickly though the pages waiting to see how it all unfolds. A similar type of atmosphere is seen in early silent drama (Von Sternberg for example) where overacting was the norm as a response to the missing narrative. Perhaps it all seems a bit labored now - but it didn't stop me from greatly enjoying this.

  20. 5 out of 5

    George

    "Beware of Pity" ("The Heart's Impatience" in German) is a 1939 novel by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. A few thoughts: It's a brilliant - though melancholy - exploration of compassion and pity. It's also a fascinating study of human psychology and the interior realms. It reminded me of "Notes From Underground" by Fyodor Dostoevsky (both have an antihero protagonist and explore human psychology). I also detect a parallel between the Anton/Edith relationship and Dostoevsky's narrator/prostit "Beware of Pity" ("The Heart's Impatience" in German) is a 1939 novel by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. A few thoughts: It's a brilliant - though melancholy - exploration of compassion and pity. It's also a fascinating study of human psychology and the interior realms. It reminded me of "Notes From Underground" by Fyodor Dostoevsky (both have an antihero protagonist and explore human psychology). I also detect a parallel between the Anton/Edith relationship and Dostoevsky's narrator/prostitute relationship. I loved Doctor Condor - a great character. Here's a passage: "If so, then Condor was right: If you help only one other human being you have made sense of your life. And it was truly rewarding to sacrifice yourself for others to the full extent of your powers and even beyond. Then any sacrifice was worthwhile. Even a lie that made others happy was more important than the truth." Zweig explores the claims of the above passage - especially the last one. Can there be love without truth? Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Notes: Audiobook: Narrated by: Nicholas Boulton Length: 14 hours and 43 minutes Unabridged Release date: 2017-06-20 Language: English Publisher: Ukemi Audiobooks

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Reading books written by authors from different nations gives you a feel for respective countries and cultures. I enjoy this. Zweig captures life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before its fall. Knowledge of times past helps us better understand modern cultures and traditions; the past puts a stamp on the future and therefore I like reading about the past. Anyhow, the book is a story within a story. The person who supposedly has written the story is relating what he was told by a friend in 1938, Reading books written by authors from different nations gives you a feel for respective countries and cultures. I enjoy this. Zweig captures life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before its fall. Knowledge of times past helps us better understand modern cultures and traditions; the past puts a stamp on the future and therefore I like reading about the past. Anyhow, the book is a story within a story. The person who supposedly has written the story is relating what he was told by a friend in 1938, so on the brink of the Second World War. His friend's story, which constitutes the story of the book, is set in a garrison town on the Hungarian Austrian border preceding the outbreak of the First World War. Neither war is the focus of the book, but life in the military is, as well as life of aristocrats, or to be more accurate "so-called" aristocrats. The manners and the morals of each. It is interesting to compare the writing styles of authors from different countries. French literature does not read as English or American or Scandinavian or Spanish or German or........ literature. Do you follow my point? This is another reason to read this book. The writing is articulate and clear and precise, and German in style. The central theme is pity. Look what is written here in the book: "There are two kinds of pity. One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one that counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond." There is sentimental pity; this is self-oriented. Then there is pity based on compassion; this is very different. One demands nothing of a person; the other demands strength. What are the consequences of actions based on pity, be it one or the other? In the book one character displays one kind of pity and another the other. These two central characters, a twenty-five-year-old cavalry officer named Lieutenant Anton Hoffmiller contrasts with forty-seven-year-old Doctor Condor. The supporting characters' pity may be studied too. And how does the person who is pitied feel, respond and behave? We are given seventeen-year-old Edith von Kekesfalva, once healthy, vivacious and happy, now lame, temperamental and spoiled by everyone around her. Watching the consequences of actions gives the reader a jolt. Sometimes one may not think ahead; doing something “kind” may cause more problems than one may imagine. What gave me trouble with the book? First of all, I know I could never behave as (view spoiler)[Anton (hide spoiler)] does. I know I would have to lay everything above board and his wavering, his inability to make up his mind drags the action out and makes the book too long. (view spoiler)[Anton does not love Edith, and he never has loved her. He only loves the glory of acting the part of a “knight in shining armor”. (hide spoiler)] And actually I would be fine with this if the author created empathy for him in me; I felt no empathy for (view spoiler)[Anton. Who of us hasn´t had the guts to break off a relationship because they know it has no future?! Most of us have the courage to do this! (hide spoiler)] Thirdly, there are two long stories plunked into the central tale. We are told the history of both the doctor and a military officer. They read as two separate novellas. We are told their stories. The reader does not live their experiences. I think the information should have been woven in better, in some other manner. I have given the audiobook narration by Nicholas Boulton five stars. Good speed, easy to follow and correct pronunciation of foreign words. I am glad I read the book. I probably will read more by the author, but this is his only full-length novel and it is for this reason I chose it. His other works are short stories or novellas and some biographies. Now I would like to read a biography about him. He and his second wife, Lotte Altman, committed suicide together in 1942, in Brazil, in despair at the state of the world.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Monroe

    Every so often you’ll read a book that just floors you with its greatness. If we’re lucky we might read one or two of these books a year, but the number is often much less than that. There just aren’t many of these kinds of books getting published anymore, so to find a really great one it’s often necessary to reach back and pull one off the mighty heap that history has given us. Stefan Zweig’s “Impatience of the Heart” is one of those books. Writing about it now leaves me fearful of tripping all Every so often you’ll read a book that just floors you with its greatness. If we’re lucky we might read one or two of these books a year, but the number is often much less than that. There just aren’t many of these kinds of books getting published anymore, so to find a really great one it’s often necessary to reach back and pull one off the mighty heap that history has given us. Stefan Zweig’s “Impatience of the Heart” is one of those books. Writing about it now leaves me fearful of tripping all over myself in an attempt to accurately describe it and its impact on me. Yes, this is one of those books that leaves a mark. There are those who have read “Impatience of the Heart” and there is everyone else. Similarly, you will learn something about yourself while reading it and something about everyone else. It’s one of the most essential books I’ve ever read for better understanding human beings and their motivations. I am fearful, perhaps, because I am aware of the importance of the review. Even a review like this - which won’t be published in any national syndication, but that I write mainly as an encapsulation of my present feelings to later return to – I struggle to write because of its potential to convince even one person of whether or not to give this book a shot. In reality, all reviews are little more than an appeal. The majority seem designed to appeal to those who have no familiarity with the thing under review. They’re designed to first answer the question, “Would reading/watching/listening to X be a good use of my time?” We are all drawn to reviewers who we believe like/dislike the same things we do. But a good reviewer is also adept at being able to craft a convincing appeal. Time is precious, and books require more of it than any other single art form I know. It makes sense then that we should be selective with the books we choose, conducting research beforehand on whether reading any given book is likely to yield at least the minimum of what we want to get out of it. We sometimes waive this requirement for those books considered “classics” but even then there are far too many supposed classics out there to be able to devote time to reading them all. That’s why a book is often an intensely personal experience. We tend to read on our own and then, unless what we’re reading is the latest Dan Brown novel, we’re often in a community where we know maybe one or two people, at best, who’ve read the same book. And, of course, experiences differ, which brings us to the second type of review. This type of review is written as an appeal to those who are already familiar with the thing under review. The critic here is trying to foster agreement and/or provide insight into the thing being reviewed. After reading a book and then writing my own review of it, I read the reviews other people have left. I’ve read many reviews over time that have shaped my opinion of a book and that have served to enrich it. I never do this before writing my own review, however, because I want my most recent impression of the book to be formed out of the author’s own words, not the thoughts of a critic. I look forward to reading other people’s thoughts. But, with this book more than most, those thoughts have the potential to more greatly affect me. I really don’t know how I’ll handle someone’s negative review of this book, though I am interested in understanding how their overall impression was negative. “Impatience of the Heart” is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. Zweig’s writing is enchantingly plain, but it’s ornamented with nostalgic gems that conjure up lost empires, in this case, that of Austria-Hungary. It’s as good as a book can be, and its greatness is uniquely literary. “Impatience of the Heart” couldn’t be adapted for the screen or brought to any other format without losing something essential in the process. It is very, very good at capturing what it is in us that makes us so weak and powerless. It is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of that “weak and sentimental” pity that Zweig describes in the following passage: “There are two kinds of pity. One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart's impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another's unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one's own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one that counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond.” The purpose of reviews is to get books like “Impatience of the Heart” read and savored as they deserve. Unmissable.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    A very powerful work and Stefan Zweig's only full length novel. Stefan Zweig generally cut and cut his longer stories until arriving at the essence of the tale. Beware of Pity is therefore an anomaly, one that forces me to conclude he should have written more novels. Memorable characters abound in this book that actually contains three extraordinary stories, the primary one set against the lead up to World War One. The protagonist, Lieutenant Anton Hofmiller is an idealistic Austrian army officer A very powerful work and Stefan Zweig's only full length novel. Stefan Zweig generally cut and cut his longer stories until arriving at the essence of the tale. Beware of Pity is therefore an anomaly, one that forces me to conclude he should have written more novels. Memorable characters abound in this book that actually contains three extraordinary stories, the primary one set against the lead up to World War One. The protagonist, Lieutenant Anton Hofmiller is an idealistic Austrian army officer and it is his pity, something of a double edged sword, which is at the root of this tragedy. Had Stefan Zweig written more novels I would have already added them to my "to read" list, as it is at least he created this one memorable work. It is well worth reading. I'll also take this opportunity to recommend the only other book I have read by Stefan Zweig, and that is his fascinating memoir The World of Yesterday. 4/5

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sharyl

    Here is a novel that would make for an interesting discussion...how much responsibility does anyone have for someone else's emotions? At what point does a situation become emotional blackmail? Who is being abused? How far would you compromise your life's path for the hope of making someone else happier? Anthony Hoffmiller, a sad war hero, tells the tale of what transpired in his youth, something that led to the soul killing guilt that enabled him to not fear death during battle, that will make hi Here is a novel that would make for an interesting discussion...how much responsibility does anyone have for someone else's emotions? At what point does a situation become emotional blackmail? Who is being abused? How far would you compromise your life's path for the hope of making someone else happier? Anthony Hoffmiller, a sad war hero, tells the tale of what transpired in his youth, something that led to the soul killing guilt that enabled him to not fear death during battle, that will make him feel shame until the day he dies. I'll admit, toward the end of this novel, some of Lt. Hoffmiller's angst began to seem tedious to me, but then--perhaps that was the intended effect. This emotional turmoil turns a young officer into an emotional, exhausted wreck--and I felt it. Just as Hoffmiller's story is coming to a climax, Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, which precipitates the beginning of WWI, and that makes this young man's woes seem insignificant, and yet-- There are no winners here. That's not a spoiler. I can see why this is a classic...it's a very thought-provoking, well-written novel which asks timeless questions.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    "Beware of Pity" is a great psychological portrait of an officer in the Austrian army, right before the outbreak of the great war. At the outset, young Anton Hofmiller commits a terrible social gaffe by asking the crippled daughter of a local noble to dance, and it is in saving face that he embarks on a journey of pity, honor, and obligation, plunging ever deeper into her life and her family's. Stefan Zweig paints an excellent portrait of a young man torn by conflicting feelings, constantly turni "Beware of Pity" is a great psychological portrait of an officer in the Austrian army, right before the outbreak of the great war. At the outset, young Anton Hofmiller commits a terrible social gaffe by asking the crippled daughter of a local noble to dance, and it is in saving face that he embarks on a journey of pity, honor, and obligation, plunging ever deeper into her life and her family's. Stefan Zweig paints an excellent portrait of a young man torn by conflicting feelings, constantly turning over in his head what he is to do but yet faltering when it comes time to make each critical decision. Anton is simply too weak to resist the warm glow of approval and acceptance that comes with being a knight in shining armor for young Edith Kekesfalva, and even though he is repulsed by her, he engages in emotional deceit because he would rather continue to play his self-appointed role of manliness and chivalry than to be honest about his feelings. In honest moments, pity is reveled in as a feeling of power; at others, it is masked as an honorable consecration to another's happiness, and the author does a fantastic job of making this two-sided sword both identifiable and vile. The feelings that are portrayed in this novel are palpably real, and every reader can identify with the sort of moral weakness where we have built for ourselves an attitude and a posture into which doing the right thing will not fit: an emotional play-acting where honesty does not enter into the role. It is almost viscerally painful to see Zweig develop this to the most extreme conclusion. What is most fascinating about this story is the undercurrent of impending war, and the knowledge that it's being told after twenty years. The narrator himself downplays his subsequent bravery in the war and implies that it is nothing compared to the moral courage that he ought to have displayed in the summer of 1914, and yet did not.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Roberto

    A great premise, though i'm not fully sure what Zweig was getting at about pity, especially during the context of the second world war when this was written. But this was a great, nerve-wracking, melodramatic, (it says 'feverish' on the jacket and that it is) read which starts off with a small, could-happen-to-anyone kinda incident and just builds and builds, slowly, logically until you are hurtling downhill fast, and there were bits which were agonising to read ughhh. It is a masterclass of nar A great premise, though i'm not fully sure what Zweig was getting at about pity, especially during the context of the second world war when this was written. But this was a great, nerve-wracking, melodramatic, (it says 'feverish' on the jacket and that it is) read which starts off with a small, could-happen-to-anyone kinda incident and just builds and builds, slowly, logically until you are hurtling downhill fast, and there were bits which were agonising to read ughhh. It is a masterclass of narrative, a real pageturner. I will say that this book is problematic is some ways, there is a bunch of ableism in the text...from the use of disability as plot device, as well as the derogatory language and 'otherness' laid on the character of Edith, and yeah i know a lot of this is character-based ignorance or naivety on the part of the narrator and his fellow officers etc, as well as being indicative of the times, but it's there, and it's weird. But i really enjoyed this book, and never found it boring once, despite some quite drawn out segments and it being way long for Bert.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dina Ezzat

    Pity. It had never occurred to me me what a double-edged feeling pity can be . Neither had I dwelled for long on the consequences of actions triggered by that feeling.. so unbelievably beautiful, yet very very painful ..so perfectly written that you feel guilty , that you question your morals , that you feel ache at your heart .. and more beautifully it ended by that one thing I truly and strongly believe in " “No guilt is forgotten so long as the conscience still knows of it.” " Pity. It had never occurred to me me what a double-edged feeling pity can be . Neither had I dwelled for long on the consequences of actions triggered by that feeling.. so unbelievably beautiful, yet very very painful ..so perfectly written that you feel guilty , that you question your morals , that you feel ache at your heart .. and more beautifully it ended by that one thing I truly and strongly believe in " “No guilt is forgotten so long as the conscience still knows of it.” "

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Rogers

    The doorman in my building (a Romanian named Moses) recommended this book to me. He told me "it is life." After I read it, I understand what he meant. Everything in this book seems so familiar, even though it takes place in the early twentieth century, and revolves around an Austrian cavalry officer's relationship with a high society family. It fires off insight after insight into human psychology with every new revelation. It's also beautifully written. You know how you tend to skim over sectio The doorman in my building (a Romanian named Moses) recommended this book to me. He told me "it is life." After I read it, I understand what he meant. Everything in this book seems so familiar, even though it takes place in the early twentieth century, and revolves around an Austrian cavalry officer's relationship with a high society family. It fires off insight after insight into human psychology with every new revelation. It's also beautifully written. You know how you tend to skim over sections in most books? I never skimmed over a page of this novel. The prose is so clean, and the story so engaging, that every sentence was a pleasure to read. I was so engrossed in it that a proprietor of a restaurant where I was eating asked me about the book I was reading: "It must be good!" he said. It was good, yo.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    “…I began to realize that it is not evil and brutality, but nearly always weakness, that is to blame for the worst things that happen in this world.” 4.5 stars. Beware of Pity was a very thorough analysis of the often insidious nature of pity. The book explored the downward spiral of mutual wretchedness that can arise between the one who pities and the one pitied. The examination of the struggle that ensued when Hofmiller tried to force himself to love the creature he merely pitied, and the r “…I began to realize that it is not evil and brutality, but nearly always weakness, that is to blame for the worst things that happen in this world.” 4.5 stars. Beware of Pity was a very thorough analysis of the often insidious nature of pity. The book explored the downward spiral of mutual wretchedness that can arise between the one who pities and the one pitied. The examination of the struggle that ensued when Hofmiller tried to force himself to love the creature he merely pitied, and the resulting repugnance and desperate desire to flee: absolutely brilliant. Zweig’s psychological insight was truly remarkable. “But this apparently helpless old man is a djinn, an evil spirit, a scoundrelly magician, and no sooner is he seated on the young man’s shoulders than he clamps his hairy, naked thighs round his benefactor’s throat in a vice-like grip and cannot be dislodged. Mercilessly he makes of the young man who has taken pity on him a beast of burden, spurs him on and on, pitilessly, relentlessly, never granting him a moment’s rest. The luckless young man is obliged to carry him wherever he asks, and from now on has no will of his own. He has become the beast of burden, the slave, of the old rascal: no matter if his knees give and his lips are parched with thirst, he is compelled, foolish victim of his own pity, to trot on and on, is fated to drag the wicked, infamous, cunning old man along for ever on his back.”

  30. 5 out of 5

    Celia

    Beware of Pity is a 1939 novel by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. It was Zweig's longest work of fiction. It was adapted into a 1946 film of the same title, directed by Maurice Elvey. The protagonist, Anton Hofmiller, is a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian Cavalry prior to World War I. He somehow wangles an invitation to the home of a rich Hungarian's party. There he sees the beautiful daughter of the rich man. He asks the daughter to dance. The daughter is a cripple and takes great offense to Beware of Pity is a 1939 novel by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. It was Zweig's longest work of fiction. It was adapted into a 1946 film of the same title, directed by Maurice Elvey. The protagonist, Anton Hofmiller, is a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian Cavalry prior to World War I. He somehow wangles an invitation to the home of a rich Hungarian's party. There he sees the beautiful daughter of the rich man. He asks the daughter to dance. The daughter is a cripple and takes great offense to the request. The rest of the book entails the lieutenant making many attempts to right his wrong. He pities her and thinks his attention will make up for his gaffe. I am surprised I could actually get through this book. Over and over the actions and thoughts of both the lieutenant and the daughter are over the top and quite melodramatic. Many times I thought this book should be entitled 'Beware of Over Reacting'. I was also caught in a whirlwind of feelings about each of these characters. Sometimes I felt compassion; sometimes I scorned both of them for their actions and thoughts. Was the author playing with me? What was he trying to accomplish? A very interesting psychological treatment, it kept me going through the thick and thin of the relationship of these two flawed people. 3.5 stars but rounded down

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