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.