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Beware of Pity

Beware of Pity

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Stefan Zweig, Translated by Anthea Bell, Designed by David Pearson

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  • Publisher: PUSHKIN PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 464 pages
  • Dimensions: 129mm x 198mm x 29mm | 370g
  • Publication date: 6 December 2012
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1908968370
  • ISBN 13: 9781908968371
  • Sales rank: 17,031

Product description

Stefan's Zweig's Beware of Pity is an almost unbearably tense and powerful tale of unrequited love and the danger of pity. The famous novel is published by Pushkin Press in a cloth bound hardback, beautifully designed by Nathan Burton and translated by the award-winning Anthea Bell. In 1913 a young second lieutenant discovers the terrible danger of pity. He had no idea the girl was lame when he asked her to dance his compensatory afternoon calls relieve his guilt but give her a dangerous glimmer of hope. Stefan Zweig's only novel is a devastating depiction of the torment of the betrayal of both honour and love, realised against the background of the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 'Beware of Pity is the most exciting book I have ever read...a feverish, fascinating novel' - Anthony Beevor, Sunday Telegraph The novel I'll really remember reading this year is Stefan Zweig's frighteningly gripping Beware of Pity, first published in 1939 ...and part of the ongoing, valiant reprinting by Pushkin Press of Zweig's collected oeuvre; an intoxicating, morally shaking read about human responsibilities and a real reminder of what fiction can do best' - Ali Smith, TLS Book of the Year 2008 'An unremittingly tense parable about emotional blackmail, this is a book which turns every reader into a fanatic' - Julie Kavanagh, Intelligent Life (The Economist) 'It's just a masterpiece. When I read it I thought, how is it that I don't already know about this?' Wes Anderson 'The rediscovery of this extraordinary writer could well be on a par with last year's refinding of the long-lost Stoner, by John Williams, and which similarly could pluck his name out of a dusty obscurity.' Simon Winchester, Telegraph 'Zweig's single greatest work' The Times Translated from the German by Anthea Bell, Stefan Zweig's Beware of Pity is published by Pushkin Press. Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was born in Vienna, into a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. He studied in Berlin and Vienna and was first known as a poet and translator, then as a biographer. Zweig travelled widely, living in Salzburg between the wars, and was an international bestseller with a string of hugely popular novellas including Letter from an Unknown Woman, Amok and Fear. In 1934, with the rise of Nazism, he moved to London, where he wrote his only novel Beware of Pity. He later moved on to Bath, taking British citizenship after the outbreak of the Second World War. With the fall of France in 1940 Zweig left Britain for New York, before settling in Brazil, where in 1942 he and his wife were found dead in an apparent double suicide. Much of his work is available from Pushkin Press.

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Author information

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was born in Vienna, into a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. He studied in Berlin and Vienna and was first known as a poet and translator, then as a biographer. Zweig travelled widely, living in Salzburg between the wars, and was an international bestseller with a string of hugely popular novellas including Letter from an Unknown Woman, Amok and Fear. In 1934, with the rise of Nazism, he moved to London, where he wrote his only novel Beware of Pity. He later moved on to Bath, taking British citizenship after the outbreak of the Second World War. With the fall of France in 1940 Zweig left Britain for New York, before settling in Brazil, where in 1942 he and his wife were found dead in an apparent double suicide. Much of his work is available from Pushkin Press.

Customer reviews

By bobbygw 20 Feb 2014 5

This is a beautifully written, deeply moving novel, set in 1914 in a small, provincial garrison town near the Hungarian border, told in retrospect, using the present tense, by Anton Hofmiller, principal character, a second lieutenant in the army. Bored with the town and his dull life (while being a good Army man, disciplined and focused, and respected by his charges), he accepts a dinner invitation from Herr von 'Kekesfalva' (Hofmiller protects his and his family's true identity, no doubt to avoid bringing further shame upon them and himself, as well, presumably, out of a sense of honour and integrity), who is the 'richest man in the whole neighbourhood. Practically everything belonged to him-'. In fact, Hofmiller not only takes up the invitation out of a wish for an exciting change to his otherwise dull life, but also more from a desire to be introduced to Kekesfalva's neice, whom he describes upon first seeing in a patisserie as an 'elegant nymph', and more besides, that we know already he is absolutely smitten by her.

Intoxicated emotionally and quite literally from the riches of the evening of the dinner - the delicious food, fine wines, cigars, the elegant service, the beautiful house, and the dancing afterwards - Hofmiller only late in the evening suddenly realises that he has committed a terrible faux-pas: throughout the entire evening, he has neither spoken to, nor asked a dance of, Herr Kekesfalva's only daughter. And soon enough, we are gradually, relentlessly along with Hofmiller drawn into a profound, troubling story of how his original sense of honour and good intentions, intermingle seamlessly with a sense of pity for the daughter, who cannot walk without crutches. In turn she misunderstands his intentions, even at one dramatic point challenging him, he still denies his true state of feelings, because in some ways he does come to love her genuinely, though again this originates from the complex issue of pity and, by the time he truly realises his love for her, it is, tragically, too late.

It is a fascinating, remarkable, melancholic, philosophical novel - i.e., a deeply searching and questioning exploration on the complexity of the subject of pity as it plays itself out - pity, and its many terrible ramifications, from guilt, angst, fear, hatred and self-loathing, to dishonour, betrayal, and, desperately, eventually, devastating loss in the form of suicide. And yet, while complex in terms of psychological depth and characterisation, it is a story that is told elegantly, smoothly, is easily absorbed and totally absorbing. In studies of European literature, it is justifiably regarded as one of the most important novels by one of Europe's most important 20th century novelists and intellectuals. For those who haven't read Zweig before, and would prefer something shorter in length - my edition runs to 365 pages - by way of an introduction to his fiction, I would strongly recommend some of his compelling shorter works, such as Confusion, Burning Secret, Fear or Chess (Penguin Mini Modern Classics).

Review quote

It's just a masterpiece. When I read it I thought, how is it that I don't already know about this? Wes Anderson Zweig's fictional masterpiece Guardian The novel I'll really remember reading this year is Stefan Zweig's frighteningly gripping Beware of Pity, first published in 1939 ... and part of the ongoing, valiant reprinting by Pushkin Press of Zweig's collected oeuvre; an intoxicating, morally shaking read about human responsibilities and a real reminder of what fiction can do best -- Ali Smith TLS Book of the Year 2008 An unremittingly tense parable about emotional blackmail, this is a book which turns every reader into a fanatic -- Julie Kavanagh Intelligent Life (The Economist) Beware of Pity is the most exciting book I have ever read...a feverish, fascinating novel -- Antony Beevor Sunday Telegraph Original and powerful The New York Times I was riveted by it Colin Firth Absolutely marvellous Roy Hodgson