Stephan Zweig

The day the Wolfman told the Female that he was accepted to Cornell University, she decided it was time to learn to read and write the language that would become the way to express herself—something that was of utmost importance to her—once they would come to America.

A learning institute was out of the question; too boring and not enough time anyway.
Autodidact was already one of her many acquired titles, making good excuse to rush to the nearest English bookstore to pick up a book by her then favorite mystery writer: Helen MacInnes.

Above Suspicion she was when she started the paperback with the same title. Equipped with Wolfman’s trusted Cassell’s German-English Dictionary, the Female sat on the balcony of their apartment that served as the World Wildlife Fund International’s liaison office in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

The Female started reading. The page could have been blank. She hardly understood one syllable. It took her eight hours to look up almost every single word of page one. Growling in frustration, she swore that she would not read another book in her native German until she had mastered that darn English.

Thirty-six years later

It started with the Female’s recent health scare. After a dash to the ER, we had a very upset Wolfman to ourselves while the Female—with blood clots in both lungs—was kept in the hospital. For five long days he disappeared for hours, leaving my little-huge sister crated, incapable to pester me. Having no reason to be grouchy I retreated to the bedroom to curl up on the bed, Verushka not far behind.

When the Female finally emerged from the electric Little Snowflake (the one I’m not allowed to ride in) she seemed impatient, almost angry.

Later I learned that she had to “take it easy” for a while, something that doesn’t go well with that woman’s disposition.
Escaping to the walking pictures is one recipe that always worked, ever since she saw Byron Haskin‘s Treasure Island, her first movie at the Capitol cinema in Lucerne.

On her birthday they watched Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Not only was the Female totally immersed in the film, she considered it a masterpiece with its hidden seriousness and messages. Googling, she learned that the director had stumbled upon Stephan Zweig‘s writings years before he made the film.

Naturally the female had read the Chess Novella. After all, her father made her read it because he was an avid player and member of the Lucerne Chess Club. She missed the writer’s magnificent literacy, not bothering to explore the genial man’s work any further.

What a difference a simple half century makes! Not to mention modern technology. In minutes the Female had downloaded the collective oeuvre of Stephan Zweig. For ninety-nine cents! The complete work of a Jewish writer whose books were burned by the Nazis. Zweig, together with his second wife, committed suicide because he could no longer bear the thoughts of the Holocaust in Europe. They died near Rio de Janeiro in February 1942, seven months before little Heideli-Mignon was born.

Eventually she will read all nineteen thousand and ninety plus pages—in German.


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