Stefan Zweig died in Brazil on 22 February 1942 in a suicide pact with his second wife, Lotte. In biographical accounts of Zweig we generally meet a worldly man blessed with inherited wealth, a stellar cast of friends, talent and the immense popularity of his books. Like so many others in his generation of German-speaking writers, he was deracinated by the mid-20th century’s mounting catastrophes.
Born in 1881, Zweig spent his life travelling: to France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Holland, Algeria, India and Indochina, North and South America, Switzerland, Eastern Europe and Russia, Scotland and England. His contemporaries called him the Flying Salzburger. In a chapter in The Impossible Exile entitled ‘Traveling Womb’, George Prochnik investigates Zweig’s relentless roaming more closely and associates it with his childhood insecurities – above all his mother’s oddities and restlessness. Prochnik catches him en route and observes him in places where he settled for longer or shorter periods.
From 1919 until 1934, Zweig lived in grand style with Friderike, his first wife, on the Kapuzinerberg in Salzburg. Threatened by Nazism – he had momentarily been attracted by its glare, even though he was Jewish, and would be criticised for not condemning the regime more loudly – he sought