...music has rests as well as notes. (19)
Master of the novella. Connoisseur of the human soul. His prose tears down the walls that separate the mind from the outside world. It finds its way towards the essence of being. And you will no longer inhabit your own body. You become one of his characters, for better or for worse.
A young man was wasting his life until he had a conversation with his father that enlightened his path. That is how he ended up assisting to a talk with a brilliant professor whose magnetic lecture bewitched his students with a fluent river of wisdom. Several lines are dedicated to convey that this professor is an excellent speaker, both concerning content and way of transmitting it.
However, other reflections were shining among so many praises.
These unruly and passionate hearts rage like lions, each trying to outdo the others in wild exuberance; all is permitted, all is allowed on stage: incest, murder, evildoing, crimes, the boundless tumult of human nature indulges in a heated orgy; as the hungry beasts once emerged from their cages, so do the inebriated passions now race into the wooden-walled arena, roaring and dangerous. It is a single outburst exploding like a petard, and it lasts for fifty years: a rush of blood, an ejaculation, a uniquely wild phenomenon prowling the world, seizing on it as its prey—in this orgy of power you can hardly hear individual voices or make out individual figures. Each strikes sparks off his neighbour, they learn and they steal from each other, they strive to outdo one another, to surpass each other’s achievement, yet they are all only intellectual gladiators in the same festive games, slaves unchained and urged on by the genius of the hour. …living respectable lives, ruffians, whore-masters, actors, swindlers, but poets, poets, poets every one. (18)
A beautiful statement about writers and their issues.
This story involves the relationship that develops between a married professor, a "man who moved from hot to cold like a bright flash of lightning" (31), and a college student.
When a person meets another, certain feelings start to wake. Likability, love, respect, indifference, hatred. Everything is allowed. The confusion begins when you can't really distinguish those feelings. A remarkable person often makes us feel admiration. A clever conversation reinforces the growing feeling of comfort. Looks can be in second place; intelligence and humor can conquer almost everything. Then, and only then, we start pondering about what we are actually experiencing. Is it love? Is love the sum of all those things? These reflections restlessly unleash a confusion of sentiments. What clearly draws the enigmatic line between love and admiration, I wouldn't know.
On one hand, we have an intense amount of feelings crying for attention and solutions. On the other hand, we have silence. Coldness. Absence.
Not that any tension or sense that they were at odds made itself felt in word or gesture: on the contrary, it was the absence of any such thing, the lack of any tension at all between them that enveloped them both so strangely and made their relationship opaque, a heavy silence of the feelings... (29)
There is a volcano of feelings waiting to erupt even in the quietest human being of all. You could hear the bustle of a colorful crowd just by taking a quick peek. A fervent desire of sharing everything you have inside. The inability to do so because of some unknown obstacle with the strength to hold you back. The fear of exposing too much, perhaps. The art of isolation.
Until you break.
Ah, secret place of my memories, where the word became magical to me and I knew the intoxication and enchantment of the intellect as nowhere else... (54)
This book covers all grounds. Zweig's prose is as clear, insightful and magnificent as ever. The act of transforming emotions into words without losing intensity is something that this writer can accomplish effortlessly. There is music in his words. There is art. Uncertainties. Melancholy. And passion. Above all.
Not just with application, my boy, but above all with passion. If you do not feel impassioned you’ll be a schoolmaster at best—one must approach these things from within and always, always with passion. (24)
Passion for your work. But also the purest form of passion, the one that has to be tamed to be acceptable for others, until you realize... that is not living.
Having this in mind, I can stop playing chess now.