||Jeremias is a drama about the Biblical prophet Jeremiah in which Zweig expresses his passionate anti-war feelings. Stefan Zweig (1881–1942), Austrian playwright, essayist, and biographer. The son of a wealthy Viennese industrialist, Zweig had an early and auspicious start in literature, publishing at the age of 20 his first verse collection, Silberne Saiten (1901). When Theodor Herzl, literary editor of the influential Neue Freie Presse, agreed to publish one of his essays, young Zweig was greatly encouraged and he soon became an outstanding member of the "Young Vienna" group. In 1903 he wrote a foreword to a collection of paintings and illustrations by Ephraim Moses Lilien. Zweig also devoted years of self-effacing work to making the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren known in German-speaking countries by translating Verhaeren's poetry and other works.
World War I marked a turning point in Zweig's outlook. His fourth play was a powerful pacifist drama, Jeremias (1918), first staged in Zurich in 1917 when Zweig was attached to the war archives in Vienna. From 1919 Stefan Zweig lived in Salzburg, where his house became an international literary and cultural center. His friends included the French humanitarian Romain Rolland whose biography Zweig published (1921) and whose novel, ClMrambault, he translated a year later. Zweig's collected verse appeared in 1924.
He became best known for biographies, in which he often grouped three people of similar interests in one volume and attempted to find a common spiritual denominator. Drei Meister (1920; Three Masters, 1930) contained biographical studies of Balzac, Dickens, and Dostoevski; Der Kampf mit dem Daemon (1925) analyzed Hoelderlin, Kleist, and Nietzsche, who fell prey to mental illness or committed suicide; while Drei Dichter ihres Lebens (1928; Adepts at Self-Portraiture, 1928), discussed Casanova, Stendhal, and Tolstoy. These nine biographies were later incorporated in Baumeister der Welt (1935; Master Builders, 1939). Other biographies were devoted to Joseph Fouche (1929; Eng., 1930), Napoleon's terrifying minister of police; to Marie Antoinette (1932; Eng., 1933); to Mary Queen of Scots (1935; Eng., 1935); to Magellan (1938; Conqueror of the Seas, 1938); and to Amerigo Vespucci (1944; Amerigo. A Comedy of Errors in History, 1942).
Zweig's only novel, Ungeduld des Herzens (1938; Beware of Pity, 1939), was a penetrating study of the love of a crippled girl. Like Marie Antoinette, and several other works by Zweig, this was later made into a motion picture. Sternstunden der Menschheit (1927; The Tide of Fortune, 1940) dramatized 12 significant events in the history of the human spirit; Die Heilung durch den Geist (1931; Mental Healers, 1933), included studies of Mesmer, Mary Baker Eddy, and Freud, in whose psychoanalysis he was greatly interested; while Triumph und Tragik des Erasmus von Rotterdam (1934; Erasmus of Rotterdam, 1934) described the man whom Zweig considered his spiritual ancestor and mentor. A gentle, non-political, modern humanist, Zweig was deeply concerned about the position of the man of spirit in an increasingly brutalized world. In 1934 he wrote the libretto for Richard Strauss' opera Die schweigsame Frau. Its suppression by the Nazis became a cause celIbre. Zweig's correspondence with Strauss (ed. by W. Schuh) was published in 1957. Zweig's brilliant and highly charged style and his psychological penetration are evident from his first collection of stories, Die Liebe der Erika Ewald (1904), to his last completed work, Schachnovelle (1941; The Royal Game, 1944), which foreshadows the triumph of a mechanized civilization over the spirit of man. Three other collections were Erstes Erlebnis (1911), sensitive studies of childhood and adolescence; Amok (1922; Eng., 1931); and Verwirrung der Gefuehle (1927; Conflicts, 1927), on adult passions and problems.
Although Zweig took no part in Jewish communal life, some of his short stories deal with Jewish themes. The biblical Legende der dritten Taube; Rahel rechtet mit Gott; and Buchmendel, the poignant tale of a Jewish bookseller, are three of those collected in Kaleidoscope (1934; Ger., Kaleidoskop, 1936). His most ambitious work of this type was Der begrabene Leuchter (1937; The Buried Candelabrum, 1937). Essays about his fellow writers were included in Begegnungen mit Menschen, Buechern, Staedten (1937). In his autobiography written during World War II, Die Welt von Gestern (1942; The World of Yesterday, 1943), Zweig sadly observed that "nine-tenths of what the world celebrated as Viennese culture in the 19th century was promoted, nourished, and created by Viennese Jewry."
A prey to increasing pessimism, Stefan Zweig, an inveterate world traveler and a tireless lecturer, settled in England in 1935. He lived first in London and later in Bath, then visited North and South America. Depressed by the fate of Europe, Zweig (together with his second wife, Elisabeth) committed suicide in Petropolis, near Rio de Janeiro. One of the most widely read writers between the world wars, Stefan Zweig is esteemed as a great storyteller, biographer, and humanitarian spirit. The International Stefan Zweig Society was founded in Vienna in 1957.