1 July 2007

Stefan Zweig - Twilight

This small volume has a couple of short stories by Zweig - Twilight and Moonbeam Alley. The second is very short, by Zweig's standards, and a story of obsessive love, sex and money. The first is an imagined recreation of the last days of Madame de Prie, the mistress of the Duke of Bourbon in the 1720s who fell out of favour and was exiled from Versailles. This was the King's response to the collapse of John Law's financial enterprise, which led to widespread unrest as people caught by the burst bubble ended up bankrupt.

Zweig imagines de Prie's despair at her exile, deprived not just of her influence - she had been the most powerful woman in France, and had chosen the King's wife for him - but of any social life. As she still has money, she hosts some balls at her country estate, to bring society to her, as she is not allowed to go to it, but the prospect of another couple of years exile is too much for her, so almost out of pique she kills herself, hoping, in vain, that she would at least attain some immortality through that.

The fact that de Prie is now forgotten is part of Zweig's point - the futility of vanity, striving for fame and influence for its own sake.


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