...after all, shadows themselves are born of light....toda sombra es, al fin y al cabo, hija de la luz.
- Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday/El Mundo de Ayer
There are people that breathe nostalgia every day. They enjoy it, they suffer it. They stare at some object and a million memories come to mind. People, friends, lovers, happiness, regrets. They are usually looking back wishing for the past to become present. For that little part of the world they knew and that it felt much safer than the one they inhabit today.
My nostalgia has a life on its own.
Well. There are many wonderful reviews about this book. I have nothing new to say. So I will simply share some rambling thoughts.
Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) has written a book where the universal sense of loss is omnipresent. What to do when the world you have always known crumbles in front of your eyes due to the acts of other human beings? I cannot imagine facing such cruelty. And then, I can. His writing is too vivid. I was the one remembering the past, enraptured by the feeling of a distant safety. A stateless individual on some strange ground, holding a pack of memories that contrasted so harshly with his present. I have read, I have lived through his words and I have learned.
I have been acquainted with other works by Zweig and his magnificent writing is obviously present in this book that is considered a real masterpiece. His prose, evocative, keen and clear as usual, deals with many issues of a society at the start of the 20th century; some ordinary, some controversial. It also describes his relationship with other relevant figures of his time. There is plenty of the external world and his perspectives.
Through his words, the author gave form to the world he has seen and lived before. Avoiding a detailed recount of his own life, this book portrays the sense of safety of those lost days. He gave his memories enough time to speak for him before he succumbed to a death made out of hopelessness and sealed by his bare hands. The defeated dream of humanity as a whole. A dream stolen by two wars that surpass every attempt of reasoning.
Reading this book was a strange experience. I have lost a lot while I was reading it and I have gained too much after finishing it. We are always returning to where we started, aren't we? Always moving from beginning to middle and vice versa. Our seeming incapacity to learn from our mistakes intoxicates our essence. Most of us are left with a bittersweet confidence in human nature. A naive optimism fighting for survival. For I am writing these nonsensical lines when, in another part of the world, people have fifteen seconds to save their lives from the atrocity of others.
We end up being wandering shadows looking for a safe place. For another soul who can feed or restore our faith in humanity. At least, some of it.
There are people that breathe nostalgia every day. Do not forget to breathe the air of the present. An existence perpetually longing for what has passed cannot see what is coming.
-Since I could not find an English edition, I read this book in Spanish. And, in my opinion, this one was a pretty decent translation.
-Painting: I wish I knew.