George Prochnik in conversation with Gideon Lewis-Kraus
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By the 1930s, Stefan Zweig had become the most widely translated living author in the world. His novels, short stories, and biographies were so compelling that they became instant best sellers. Zweig was also an intellectual and a lover of all the arts, high and low. Yet after Hitler’s rise to power, this celebrated writer who had dedicated so much energy to promoting international humanism plummeted, in a matter of a few years, into an increasingly isolated exile—from London to Bath to New York City, then Ossining, Rio, and finally Petrópolis—where, in 1942, in a cramped bungalow, he killed himself.
Author George Prochnik’s The Impossible Exile tells the tragic story of Zweig’s extraordinary rise and fall while it also depicts, with great acumen, the gulf between the world of ideas in Europe and in America, and the consuming struggle of those forced to forsake one for the other. It also reveals how Zweig embodied, through his work, thoughts, and behavior, the end of an era—the implosion of Europe as an ideal of Western civilization.
George Prochnik’s essays, poetry, and fiction have appeared in numerous journals. He has taught English and American literature at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is editor-at-large for Cabinet magazine, and is the author of In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise and Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam, and the Purpose of American Psychology. He lives in New York City.
Gideon Lewis-Kraus grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Stanford in 2002. He has lived in San Francisco, Berlin (where he was a 2007–8 Fulbright Fellow), and Shanghai, and now lives in New York. He has written reportage and criticism for various newspapers and magazines, and is the author of the digressive travel memoir A Sense of Direction and the Kindle Single No Exit. He is a contributing editor at Harper’s magazine, and was a finalist for the NBCC’s Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Gideon co-edited, with Arnie Eisen, Philip Rieff’s Sacred Order/Social Order III, and edited Richard Rorty’s Philosophy as Cultural Politics.