European studies blog

25 posts categorized "Austria"

30 September 2016

‘The only censor is honesty’: Press Freedom and its Limits in Revolutionary Vienna

Add comment

For many who took to the streets in the European revolutions of 1848 press freedom and an end to government censorship were key demands. When these were granted – if only, as it often turned out, for a limited period – both the revolutionaries and their opponents took the opportunity to express their arguments and opinions in a torrent of printed material.

A look at the British Library’s collection of ephemera from Vienna during the period clearly demonstrates the importance of this aspect in the discourse of the revolution. Among the first publications to appear following Emperor Ferdinand’s promise of more liberal press laws on 15 March, were poems celebrating the achievements of the revolution, including Friedrich Gerhard’s ‘Die Presse frei’, which declares that now ‘The only censor is – honesty’. Like various other pieces dated on and around 15 March, it proudly claims to be the first uncensored work issued by its printer.

Wien Presse frei  11526
Friedrich Gerhard, ‘Die Presse Frei’ (Vienna, 1848), with the proud boast ‘Erstes censurfreies Gedicht’. British Library  

As well as poetry, there were prose declarations of gratitude. A ‘Manifest der Schriftsteller Wiens’, also dated 15 March, is signed by 27 writers who proclaim that they are ‘taking formal possession of the rights of a free press guaranteed by our most gracious monarch’. The first signatory, Ignaz Franz Castelli, later wrote a series of didactic pieces to educate the wider public about the gains of the revolution. In the first, ‘Was ist denn jetzt g’schehen in Wien?’ (1899.m.19.(170)), he calls freedom of the press ‘the most excellent of all freedoms.’

Castelli was neither a radical or an active revolutionary (he would spend much of 1848 in the quiet seclusion of his country estate). But he believed that wise and good citizens, now permitted to judge for themselves about the reading-matter on offer, would reject anything ‘unworthy’. Many conservatives were less optimistic, such as the anonymous author of the pamphlet Hoch lebe die Preszfreiheit! Nieder mit der Preszfrechheit, who praises the principle of a free press but bemoans the what he sees as, ‘insolent, salacious, lying, bilious and pernicious pamphlets’ appearing on the streets as a result of the lack of censorship.

Wien Pamphlets Preszefreiheit
Hoch lebe die Preszfreiheit! Nieder mit der Preszfrechheit
([Vienna, 1848]) RB.23.a.33764

This criticism was aimed at writers such as Sigmund Engländer, a more radical fellow-signatory of Castelli’s petition and editor of Wiener Charivari-Katzenmusik, one of the many new critical and satirical journals that sprang up in the course of the year. But despite the criticism thrown at them, these writers were in many ways the heroes and pioneers of the free press during the Revolution. Even if their satires were sometimes crude or potentially libellous, like opponents of censorship throughout the ages they were pushing boundaries, mocking sacred cows and raising the question of what could or should be said, a bolder and more creative approach to new freedoms than Castelli’s somewhat patronising and paternalistic lectures.

Wien Granaten-Fürst
Mocking sacred cows: a cartoon from October 1848 satirising the Austrian General Windischgrätz as ‘Grenade-Prince Bombowitz’ and a ‘long-nosed monster’ , October 1848, 1899.m.19.(172)

Writers like Engländer were inevitably diasppointed when the promised new press law was published. Lèse majesté, libel, treason or incitement to unlawful activity were still punishable by up to five years imprisonment, and the law demanded that all works must bear the name of an author, editor publisher or printer, who could be identified as responsible for any offence. In a skit on the new guidelines (1899.m.19.(153)), Eduard Leidesdorf posed a riddle: ‘Why was the Press Law rejected? Because no author, publisher or printer was named’ (as was often the case with official documents). By 16 August Engländer clearly thought things had got so bad that he added ‘A few days before the reintroduction of censorship’ to the masthead of his journal, and devoted the front page to an attack on the press law.

Wiener Charivari 16 August
Wiener Charivari. Katzenmusik
no. 31, 16 August 1848. 1899.m.19.(248)

But as early as April, when the press law was first published, an article in Der große Peter had printed a satirical ‘letter from Metternich’ in which the former Chancellor claims that the new law is a better means of preventing free speech than his own system of censorship. In fact Der große Peter is almost exclusively focused on questions of press freedom and press law. In its opening number, the editor claims to have discovered an ingenious way of avoiding taxes levied on political periodicals issued more than once a month: he will re-name the journal for each day of the month, making it ‘thirty newspapers instead of one!’. However, only one further issue was published, under the title Der Stutz-Peter. While very short-lived periodicals were typical of the period, in the case of Der große Peter it is possible that the whole exercise was a satire on the press law and never intended to be a genuinely long-running publication.

Grosse Peter 1
Der große Peter
, no. 1, 9 April 1848. 1899.m.19.(202) 

Radicals might have thought that the 1848 press law was too draconian, but far worse was to come. Following a second revolutionary uprising in October 1848, Vienna was besieged by the Imperial army under General Windischgrätz. In a series of ultimatums to the city, Windischgrätz demanded the banning of all newspapers and periodicals (with the exception of the long-established Wiener Zeitung, which was only to print official proclamations). When the army finally gained control of Vienna on 31 October, this was reiterated, and the printing, posting and circulation of broadsheets and pamphlets also forbidden. Gradually newspapers began to reappear, mostly established and conservative titles. Only one of Vienna’s new satirical journals survived: Johann Franz Böhringer’s Die Geißel, the only one to have been on the side of the establishment throughout. In 1849 a new and stronger press law was introduced, and press censorship continued in Austria until the proclamation of a republic in 1918.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

This blog is part of series for Banned Books Week 2016. See also Melvin Burgess’s blog on Censorship and the Author, curator Christian Algar on the ‘corrected’ Il Decamerone, curator Tanya Kirk on The Monk, the Bible and Obscenity, The Book Banner who inspired Banned Books by curator Alison Hudson and Banned From the Classroom: Censorship and The Catcher in the Rye by curator Mercedes Aguirre.

Banned Books Week was initiated by the American Library Association in 1982 in response to an increasing number of challenges in the US to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, and in particular, books aimed at children or young adults. For the first time in the UK we are holding events, activities and publishing a series of blogs, all on the topic of Censorship and Banned Books, made possible by the partnership between The British Library, Free Word and Islington Library and Heritage Services and in association with the ALA.


10 August 2016

‘Happiness for ten crowns’: Milena Jesenská (1886-1944).

Add comment

The British Library possesses a mysterious book published in 1926 in Czechoslovakia. In keeping with its title, Cesta k jednoduchosti (‘Journey to simplicity’:, its plain purple cover bears only the title and the author’s name – the single word ‘Milena’.

Milena Casta Kjednoduchosti cover
Cover of Milena Jesenská, Cesta k jednoduchosti (Prague, 1926) British Library YA.1987.a.16955.

During her lifetime, the author bore three different surnames, but is widely remembered for her association with a man whom she met only briefly. Milena Jesenská  was born on 10 August 1896 as the daughter of Jan Jesenský, a prosperous doctor who alleged that he was descended from Jan Jesenius, the first professor of medicine at Charles University  and one of the Protestants executed in the Old Town Square in 1621. She was educated at the Minerva school, the first gymnasium for girls in Central Europe. After the death of her mother when Milena was 16, she became increasingly rebellious, purloining drugs from her father’s medicine cabinet, reading controversial authors and staying out all night. Dr. Jesenský insisted that she should enrol in medical school, but when she fainted during her first dissection class he allowed her to abandon her studies. A gifted pianist, she flirted with music, but lacked the application to make it her career. She became a well-known figure in café society during the First World War, when political tension was growing between Prague and Vienna and the Čapek brothers, Karel and Josef, and their friends were discussing new trends in literature and art.

Milena aged 13
Milena aged 13, reproduced in Mary Hockaday, Kafka, love and courage : the life of Milena Jesenská (London, 1995) YC.2003.a.7796.

It was at the Café Arco in 1916 that Milena encountered two men who were to have a lasting impact on her life. One was a reticent young Jewish author who never stayed long at the café and initially made little impression on her. The second was Ernst Pollak, ten years older than herself. Her father disapproved of Milena’s association with a German-speaking Jew with no profession, and in 1917 he had her committed to a private psychiatric clinic. He finally capitulated, and in March 1918 Milena and Pollak were married and departed for Vienna.

Despite their participation in the lively intellectual life of the Austrian capital, the marriage proved unstable. Pollak had little regard for fidelity, and Milena herself began an affair with the author Hermann Broch. Desperate to recapture her husband’s attention, she stole and pawned jewellery from a friend to buy new clothes, and ended up in court. It was not until, in 1919, she began to write for the progressive liberal paper Tribuna, edited by Arnošt Lustig, that she began to develop a sense of identity and purpose, giving readers in Prague impressions of life in post-war Vienna. From fashion articles and essays on the delights of simple pleasures such as fruit, flowers and cakes (‘Happiness for ten crowns’), she progressed to sharp-eyed portrayals of the black market and the privations which the Viennese suffered as they nevertheless kept the city’s traditions of cafés and culture alive.

Milena in the mid-1920s. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

On a visit to Prague in October that year, she met up again with the man whom she had known slightly from her Arco days, and they began a correspondence. It was these letters, subsequently published as Briefe an Milena, that made her famous though her association with their writer – Franz Kafka.

Many of the books about Milena define her in terms of this association – for example, Margarete Buber-Neumann’s Kafkas Freundin Milena (Munich, 1963; X.908/2595), or Kafka’s Milena (London, 1992; YK.1994.a.904), the English translation of Adresát Milena Jesenská (Prague, 1991; YA.1992.a.2927), a biography by her daughter Jana Černá. Yet they only met twice, for four days in Vienna and one in Gmünd, during a correspondence which broke off abruptly in November 1920. The relationship, which began as a literary collaboration when she translated Kafka’s story Der Heizer (‘The Stoker’), the first of his works to appear in Czech, stood little chance of success because of Kafka’s poor health and timorous pessimism (‘We are both married, you in Vienna, I to my fear in Prague…’) and Milena’s inability to leave Pollak, whom she eventually divorced in 1925. Although it was Kafka who ended their association, he entrusted her with his diaries, and they corresponded sporadically until his death in 1924.

Milena Zijeme cartoonCartoon from the magazine Žijeme (P.801/132) showing Milena, her husband and daughter in a sparsely-furnished modernist flat

After her divorce Milena returned to Prague and developed her career as a journalist, translator and editor. She published Cesta k jednoduchosti, a collection of her articles which she dedicated to her father, and their reconciliation was strengthened by her marriage on 30 April 1927 to a man of whom he wholeheartedly approved – the modernist architect Jaromír Krejcar. He was a member of the Devětsil  group, and Karel Teige was one of the witnesses at the wedding. A daughter, Jana (Honza) was born to the couple in 1928, but a serious illness during the pregnancy left Milena with a permanent limp and an addiction to morphine. The marriage ended in divorce in 1934.

Milena journalism
A collection of Milena's journalism in English translation, The journalism of Milena Jesenská: a critical voice in interwar Central Europe, edited by Kathleen Hayes (New York, 2003) m03/21721

Two collections of Milena’s journalism make her work accessible to non-Czech speakers: The journalism of Milena Jesenská, edited by Kathleen Hayes, and Widerstand und Biografie: die widerständige Praxis der Prager Journalistin Milena Jesenská gegen den Nationalsozialismus, edited by Lucyna Darowska (Bielefeld, 2004; YF.2014.a.8107). These articles, originally published in Tribuna, Národní listy and Přítomnost, the political and cultural journal which she edited in 1938-39, provide critical insights into the rise of Nazism and its implications for Czechoslovakia. Her outspoken stance and the help which she provided to enable Jewish and political refugees to emigrate led to her arrest by the Gestapo in November 1939, imprisonment and deportation to Ravensbrück, where she died of kidney disease on 17 May 1944.

From the time when she stole flowers from graves to distribute as gifts to her last days in the concentration camp, Milena Jesenská’s life was characterized by an unquenchable zest for life and generosity of spirit. These qualities shine through her journalism, which is at last earning her the reputation which she won during some of the most turbulent times of recent Czech history.

 Susan Halstead Content Specialist (Humanities & Social Sciences) Research Engagement

04 April 2016

Graham Nattrass Lecture, 17 June 2016

Add comment Comments (0)

Under the auspices of the German Studies Library Group and in association with the British Library, a lecture in memory of Graham Nattrass (1940-2012) will be delivered on 17th June 2016 at the British Library. Professor Joachim Whaley, LittD FBA, will speak on ‘The Empire of Print: Governance and Communication in the Holy Roman Empire 1495-1806’.

Graham Nattrass enjoyed a long and distinguished career at the British Library and its antecedents, having started work in 1971 at the National Central Library in Yorkshire (a predecessor of the BL’s Document Supply Service). In 1976 he moved to the Library’s London base, then in the British Museum, and joined the newly-constituted German Section the following year. Graham went on to become Head of Germanic Collections and by the time of his retirement in 2005 was Head of West European Collections. He was a founding member of the German Studies Library Group and its Chairman from 2003 until 2007. His memoir of his life and career at the British Library was published in the Group’s Newsletter, issues 44-45, 2012-13 (British Library ZK.9.b.1089).

Graham Nattrass et al 1997
Graham Nattrass (3rd from right) with Germanic Collections colleagues in the Round Reading Room of the British Museum, June 1997.

Joachim Whaley is Professor of German History and Thought at the University of Cambridge (Graham’s own alma mater). He is currently a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College having previously held fellowships at Christ’s College and Robinson College, and he was first appointed to a lectureship at the University’s German Department in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages in 1980. His publications include Religious Toleration and Social Change in Hamburg, 1529-1819 (Cambridge, 1985; X.800/41744) and Germany and the Holy Roman Empire 1493-1806, 2 vols (Oxford, 2012; YC.2012.a.17809 & YC.2012.a.14001).  He is currently writing a history of Austria and German-speaking Europe from the later Middle Ages to the present day.  Professor Whaley has been a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 1984, was awarded a LittD in 2013 by the University of Cambridge for his books and articles on early modern German history, and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in July 2015.

Schedel IC.7452
The Emperor and Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. From Hartmut Schedel, Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg, 1493) IC.7542.

The event will take place in the British Library Conference Centre’s Brontë and Eliot Rooms and will start with refreshments at 5.30 pm, with the lecture commencing at 6 pm. There is no charge to attend, but places are strictly limited. If you wish to come, please email Dorothea Miehe, Chair of the German Studies Library Group:


25 December 2015

The Stories of ‘Silent Night’

Add comment Comments (0)

Few Christmas carols are better known and loved than ‘Stille Nacht’ / ‘Silent Night’, and probably none has such a familiar romantic tale attached to its origins. Most people know the story of how the church organ in the small town of Oberndorf near Salzburg was found to be broken on Christmas Eve 1818, and how the priest, Joseph Mohr, and organist, Franz Xaver Gruber, hastily wrote the words and melody of a song which could be performed to a guitar accompaniment instead.

Stille Nacht MS 1836
Facsimile of a manuscript of ‘Stille Nacht’ made by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1836, from Alois Leeb, ‘Bibliographie des Weihnachtsliedes “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”.’ Oberösterreichische Heimatblätter, Jg, 23 (1969). British Library

This is partly true. The song was indeed written by Mohr and Gruber and first performed, to a guitar accompaniment, at Christmas 1818, but Mohr had in fact written the words two years earlier and the story of the damaged organ is speculation (besides, presumably there were existing carols which could have been sung to a guitar…).

Stille Nacht 1832
The first published version of ‘Stille Nacht’, in three-verse form, from Vier ächte Tyroler-Lieder ... Gesungen von den Geschwistern Strasser aus dem Zillerthale.(Dresden, [1832?]) Hirsch M.1291.(18.)

Although the song quickly gained local popularity around Oberndorf, it was taken to a wider audience by two families of singers, the Strassers and the Rainers, who both came from another part of Austria, the Tyrolean Zillertal. The Strassers were glove-makers who started singing as a group to attract custom to their stall at the Leipzig Christmas fair. They were subsequently invited to perform at Christmas services and concerts in the city, and for a few years in the early 1830s they devoted themselves to a singing career, travelling around Germany with ‘Stille Nacht’ as a popular part of their repertoire. They cut Mohr’s original six verses down to three, and this is the form of the song that is known today and was first published in a collection of ‘authentic Tyrolean melodies’ as performed by the Strassers.

 Stiller Nacht StrassersTitle-page of Vier ächte Tyroler-Lieder...  with a (probably fanciful) picture of the Strassers

Incidentally, the Strassers apparently first heard of ‘Stille Nacht’ from Carl Mauracher, an organ-builder who rebuilt the church organ at Oberndorf in 1825. Could his role in the transmission of the song have inspired the story of a broken organ forcing Mohr and Gruber to improvise?

The Rainers were a more professional and longer-lived group. They travelled beyond Germany, taking  ‘Stille Nacht’ to international audiences, including America, where they toured from 1839 to 1843, and where the first English translation of the song appeared in 1849. Ten years later the most familiar English version was published by an American Episcopal priest, John Freeman Young

Stille Nacht Rainers
Fascimile signatures of the Rainer Family Singers, from an edition of ‘Tyrolese melodies’ published in London (R.M.13.f.22.). The signatures guaranteed that this was an authentic and approved edition, evidence of the Rainers’ more professional and businesslike approach to their singing career.

Like the Strassers, the Rainers were advertised as singing traditional Tyrolean songs, and ‘Stille Nacht’ was not attributed to either Mohr or Gruber in its earliest publications. The melody was generally thought to be either a Tyrolean folk-tune or the work of Michael Haydn. In 1854 the Prussian Court Chapel in Berlin wrote to St Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg asking for clarification; the letter found its way to Gruber who wrote an account of the song’s origins, identifying Mohr as author and himself as composer, although a  printed score in the British Library ( attributes the tune to Michael Haydn as late as 1921. 

Stille Nacht authentischer BerichtA facsimile of Gruber’s report of 1854, explaining the origins of ‘Stille Nacht’, from  Max Gehmacher, Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht! Das Weihnachtslied, wie es entstand, und wie es wirklich ist (Salzburg, 1937) 11858.c.95

Despite Grubers efforts, legends and misinformation continued to accumulate around the song. A completely untrue claim that Mohr translated the words from Latin dates from 1899 and was still being quoted nearly a century later. The story has been fictionalised several times and there have been film and theatre adaptations, all adding various romantic subplots and embellishments to the original tale, many of which can be found today presented as truth on the Internet and elsewhere.

But none of this mythology would have accumulated without the song’s genuine popularity and power to move. For British audiences in particular it has gained in emotional impact by becoming linked with the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce (another true story around which many legends have been built), when British and German soldiers sang it together across the lines. It has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects, and in countries all round the world Christmas would not be Christmas without it. No wonder we love the story of its rise from humble origins to worldwide fame.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies


23 November 2015

1267 Shots Later

Add comment Comments (0)

The Stefan Zweig Collection of manuscripts, donated to the British Library in 1986, has been described as ‘the most important and valuable donation made to the Library in the 20th century’.  The manuscripts are not those of Zweig’s own works but a selection of the autograph manuscripts of great composers, writers and historical figures which Zweig collected throughout his life.  A catalogue of the music manuscripts was published in 1999 and these have all been digitised. Now it is the turn of the literary and historical manuscripts. A digitisation programme was begun in early 2015, and nearly all of the manuscripts can now be viewed via the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts catalogue. A printed catalogue is due for publication in 2016, and the full catalogue descriptions will also be found online. In this post,  Pardaad Chamsaz, a collaborative PhD student working on the collection, considers the challenges involved in digitising Honoré de Balzac’s proof copy of his novel Une ténébreuse affaire, with its myriad corrections and editions.

When the first marked page of the corrected proof for Balzac’s Une ténébreuse affaire (British Library Zweig MS 133) prosaically gives its title, author and status as “épreuves”, we may linger on this last word, as it signals both its stage in the writing process as well as the “test” that its reading threatens. This innocuous page sits on top of a pile of over 600 sheets, both typed and handwritten, where the typescript is aggressively handled and manipulated, so that the physical struggle for the work is eternalised on the underbelly of its published variant.

  Balzac Folio 1
The unassuming first leaf of Une ténébreuse affaire

This unassuming opening faced the Imaging Studio team, as Une ténébreuse affaire was delivered for digitisation earlier this year. They were all too aware of the “test” they were about to embark on. Indeed, translations for épreuve include equivalents such as “hardship”, “ordeal”, “trial” – words not inappropriate to the task at hand. Once the conflict of logistics around when to attempt the digitisation was resolved (the difference between the “let’s leave it until the end of the project” and “let’s get it out of the way” schools of thought – both implying trepidation), the photographer entered the proof, labelled by its collector, Stefan Zweig, as a ‘Höllenlabyrinth von Korrekturen’, an infernal labyrinth of corrections.

Zweig MS 133 f 18r
The ‘infernal labyrinth’ within: f. 18 of Une ténébreuse affaire

Zweig considered the proof as a key document in his collection that could provide immense insights into the secret of literary creation. When Zweig purchased the item in 1914, he wrote in his diary that as soon as he saw it in the famous Parisian antiquarian bookseller, Blaisot, he bought it ‘lightning-quick, rashly, greedily, in spite of feeling like I might have overpaid’. Now, the library’s Zweig MS 133 is one of the most unique and complete examples of a Balzac corrected proof outside of the Spoelberch de Lovenjoul collection in the library of the Institut de France in Paris.

This mass of workings around the detective novel’s ever more complex intrigue, contains printed pages of uneven lengths and widths overlain with thick handwritten corrections, often with an indecipherable set of symbols linking old and new text. The reader will find slips of paper glued onto some pages to indicate replacement text, as well as, from the very beginning of the “labyrinth”, around 200 inserted small leaves of manuscript additions. It was rumoured that Balzac would go through this correction process 10-15 times for each work, and Zweig was in awe of how Balzac’s physical work was so tangible in these proofs.

Just as Zweig senses the artist wrestling with their art, like Jacob with the angel, the photographer fought with our corrected proof, unfolding its pages, pinning it down (for the count), before focusing the camera (one, two…) and shooting it still… only to turn the page and for the battle to recommence. ‘Jedes Blatt ein Schlachtfeld’, every page a battlefield, in the words of Zweig. Weeks of labour, in Balzac’s rewriting, in Zweig’s reading, in our digitizing. If the corrected proof opens a door onto the workshop of the writer, where, in the stroke and the trace of the ink, we experience the fugitive presence of the hand manically at work, we should retrace our digitisation in the same way and detail the actions behind the stillness of a photo.

Balzac pinned down
Balzac pinned down  (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

Balzac resisting
Balzac fights back (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

Balzac digital
Balzac captured on the Imaging Technician’s screen (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

With the majority of the manuscripts in the Stefan Zweig Collection now digitised and available online, we are presented with an awkward idea: the unique material object, with which Zweig experienced the writing process, has lost its materiality through its digital cloning. No longer the actual trace, the photograph becomes, in the words of Sonja Neef, an ‘imprint of a trace’, a step away from the unique encounter. In the same way as Zweig draws attention to the “underground” compositional stages of writing, perhaps, by re-embodying the digitisation process, we can give the screen shot the texture it deserves.

Pardaad Chamsaz  Collaborative Doctoral Student


Stefan Zweig, Die Welt von gestern. (Frankfurt, 1955). F10/3573

Oliver Matuschek, Ich kenne den Zauber der Schrift: Katalog und Geschichte der Autographensammlung Stefan Zweig, (Vienna, 2005). YF.2006.a.13265

Sonja Neef Imprint and Trace: handwriting in the age of technology (London, 2011). YC.2011.a.14184


23 September 2015

A Friendship with Freud: Stefan Zweig and the Father of Psychoanalysis.

Add comment Comments (0)

The influence of Sigmund Freud and his theories of the mind on modern culture can hardly be underestimated. Whether we are admirers or detractors, whether we consider his views to be still valid or discredited today, no-one can deny that even a cursory knowledge of his ideas colours the way we view the world.  Terms like ego, libido, and indeed psychoanalysis, have passed into common use, and of course we all make ‘Freudian slips.’

Among Freud’s admirers in his own day was Stefan Zweig, who said that Freud had ‘deepened and expanded our knowledge of the human mind like no one else of our time’ and remembered his conversations with Freud as among the ‘greatest intellectual pleasures’ in his life. The correspondence and friendship between the two men began in 1908 when Zweig sent Freud a copy of his drama Thersites and continued until Freud’s death.

Zweig was fascinated by Freud’s theories and by the idea of examining human psychology.  In his fiction he often portrays particular psychological types and their reaction to specific situations, and it is striking how many of his stories are presented in a framing narrative, as letters or as an account told to an initial narrator by another, perhaps in part to place the first narrator (and the reader?) in the position of the listening analyst.

If Zweig admired Freud, the feeling was mutual. Freud enjoyed and appreciated Zweig’s works of both fiction and biography, praising his sensitivity and perception, and finding his own theories demonstrated in Zweig’s  fictional situations.  In 1924 he presented Zweig with the manuscript of his 1907 lecture ‘Der Dichter und das Phantasieren’  (translated as ‘The Creative Writer and Daydreaming’) , an appropriate gift from psychologist to author. In the lecture Freud describes creative writing as an adult substitute for the imaginative play of childhood, both – like dreams – being a way of expressing repressed desires. The manuscript was one of those that Zweig kept when he went into exile and is now in the British Library’s Stefan Zweig Collection.

The first leaf of ‘Der Dichter und das Phantasieren’, British Library Zweig MS 150

In 1931 Zweig published a study of Freud as one of three linked portraits of ‘mental healers’ (the others being Franz Anton Mesmer and Mary Baker Eddy). Freud was more guarded in his praise of this than of other works by Zweig, finding the portrayal of him too conventional, and damning Zweig with faint praise for managing a reasonable description of psychoanlaytic theory despite (as Freud believed) knowing nothing about it before starting work. However, Zweig was writing for a more general audience – indeed, this was one of the first studies of Freud aimed at a non-specialist public – and the book, like all Zweig’s works at the time, was a bestseller, whatever Freud’s reservations.

Towards the end of Freud’s life he and Zweig were both living in exile in London. Zweig regularly visited Freud in Hampstead, on one occasion in July 1938 bringing another great admirer, Salvador Dalí, with him. While Freud and Zweig talked, Dalí sketched a portrait of Freud. Later Zweig could not bring himself to show Freud the portrait  ‘because Dalí had prophetically shown death in his face,’ perhaps a strange attitude given Zweig’s admiration for Freud’s fearlessness in facing unpalatable truths, but clearly the reaction of an affectionate friend as well as a keen admirer.

Despite the cancer which was slowly killing him, Freud lived on for over a year after Dalí’s visit, dying on 23 September 1939. Zweig delivered the eulogy at his funeral and said that without Freud’s influence, ‘each of us would think, judge, feel, more narrowly, less freely, less justly.’

 Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References/further reading:

Stefan Zweig, Die Welt von Gestern: Erinnerungen eines Europäers  (Stockholm, 1943)  YA.1990.a.17913 (English translation by Anthea Bell, The World of Yesterday (London 2009) YC.2011.a.55)

Stefan Zweig, Die Heilung durch den Geist. Mesmer, Mary Baker-Eddy, Freud (Leipzig, 1931). (English translation by Eden and Cedar Paul, Mental Healers (London, 1933) 7409.b.19.)

Oliver Matuschek, Stefan Zweig: Drei Leben – eine Biografie (Frankfurt, 2006) YF.2007.a.24010

Jasmin Keller, ‘Ein Psychoanalytiker als Literaturkritiker: Sigmund Freud interpretiert Stefan Zweigs Werk’ at


09 February 2015

The Grand Budapest Hotel: The Vanished World (of Autograph Manuscripts)

Add comment Comments (0)

With five awards atThe_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_Poster Sunday’s BAFTAs and nine nominations at the upcoming Oscars, The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson, 2014) has shown surprising staying power in the memories of the voting members, following its early release last year. We might say that the film’s stylised nostalgia – it’s a kind of a nostalgic film about nostalgia (one gets lost in all the narrative layers) – managed to evoke its own pang of nostalgia in the minds of the judges, when they came to vote.

Left: Theatrical release poster for Wes Anderson's film, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

It is precisely that yearning for a long-gone ‘age of security’ that is said to link the atmosphere of the film to the writings of Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), the Austrian bestseller who went into exile before the start of the Second World War. Drastic change and destruction in the first half of the 20th century cut Zweig’s care-free, aesthetic period so sharply, he would later refer to his ‘three lives’, a life dissected by war and exile. Writing in his memoirs, Zweig can see only too clearly, with decades of distance, how fragile the security of pre-war life was:

Today, now that the word ‘security’ has long been struck out of our vocabulary as a phantom, it is easy for us to smile at the optimistic delusion of that idealistically dazzled generation, which thought that the technical progress of mankind must inevitably result in an equally rapid moral rise (The World of Yesterday, translated by Anthea Bell,  p. 26).

Stefan Zweig ca 1912. (Image from  Wikimedia Commons)

Through its framed narrative, The Grand Budapest Hotel adopts a similarly debunked perspective, which shows the demise of all the decadent features of European high culture that the hotel once represented. An unpopulated and worn-down anachronism it may be, but, as the proprietor (and the third or fourth layer of the narrative structure, depending whether we include Zweig himself, whose introduction to his novel Ungeduld des Herzens is quoted directly) Zero Moustafa deems, ‘I love it all, just the same. This enchanting, old ruin’ (Screenplay, p. 7).

The film plays on this tension between vivifying the traditions of old and dismantling them at every turn. As Nelson has it, Anderson ‘has always played around at collapsing with one hand the same meticulous dollhouse structures he’s built up with the other’ (Los Angeles Review of Books). The old world is not only threatened by the most obvious narrowing restrictions of a growing fascist presence (lead by ‘Henckels’, played by Ed Norton), but every paradigm of that world is undercut somehow. Monsieur Gustave’s (Ralph Fiennes) neo-romantic, and often nonsensical, verse is always interrupted, for example. Elsewhere, the Dutch-style portrait ‘Boy with Apple’, in pride of place in the mansion of the deceased Madame D, is replaced by an Egon Schiele nude, shocking its ornamental surroundings (before it, too, and the modernity it represents, is smashed to pieces). Zweig’s own neo-romantic beginnings (see his first collection of poetry, which he later disowned, Silberne Saiten,  British Library, W30/2847) and his uneasiness towards the radical turn in modernist culture (‘artificial wildness with desperate haste’, The World of Yesterday, p. 323) parallel these moments.

Zweig and Gustave are united in the European-ness of the hotel, this ‘refined, highly-cultivated society’ (Screenplay, p. 73), and when the hotel is not the main setting, the film moves to a train or another transitional space (Richard Brody). Yes, it is true that such settings lend a temporariness to the experiences, contributing to the threat of the coming fascism or modernity. Yet, they are simultaneously suggestive of a free Europe, of the potential for encounter, of new experiences. Zweig, as the quintessential European mediator of culture and ideas, felt, with the advent of restrictions to freedom of travel, the end of his life’s thrust. And, true to his model, Monsieur Gustave also begins to lose faith, after being first accosted during a security check on a train:

‘You see? There are still faint glimmers of civilisation left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed, that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant -- (sighs deeply) Oh, f**k it’ (Screenplay, p. 31).

In an interview between George Prochnik, author of The Impossible Exile, an exploration of Zweig’s exile period, and Wes Anderson, printed in the collection The Society of the Crossed Keys, the director links this idea of Europe and encounter to the idea of ‘collection’. He says:

You can see why this turn of events would be the beginning of everything that became too much to bear. Not only because he was someone who had friends all over Europe and collected people actively […] He also collected manuscripts and books and musical scores, and he was gathering things from all over – among artists he admired (p. 15).

As Monsieur Gustave decides to sell his valuable artwork and move away with his lobby-boy companion, Zweig, too, sold the majority of his collected items by 1936. What remains, as ‘The Stefan Zweig Collection of Musical and Literary Autograph Manuscripts’, was officially donated to the British Library by Zweig’s heirs in 1986, while the hundreds of other once-owned manuscripts are mostly housed in the foundation of their original buyer Martin Bodmer in Geneva (Oliver Matuschek has produced a catalogue of Zweig’s pre-sale collection). Prochnik refers to the collection as a ‘museum of Europe’, so fitting for the Grand Budapest Hotel, ‘that would serve as a microcosm of the whole vast continent before it all got blown asunder’ (The Society of the Crossed Keys, p.16). Zweig lived inside, what he once termed, the ‘Welt der Autographen’ (world of autograph manuscripts), this museum of Europe. Yet, even in this world of creative nostalgia, elements of that same destruction are present in the form of the notes for a speech by Adolf Hitler (Zweig MS 158), sat between poems by Hesse and Hofmannsthal, and an article by Mussolini (Zweig MS 174).

Grand Budapest - Hofmannsthal
Vor Tag’, poem by Hugo von Hofmannsthal from  Zweig's collection (Zweig MS 159)

Describing the films of Wes Anderson, Michael Chabon relates them to the ‘boxed assemblages of Joseph Cornell’, and imagines both men summing up their work in the phrase: ‘I have put the world in a box’ (introduction to The Wes Anderson Collection, p. 23). Stefan Zweig , too, created his world in a box –  the manuscripts of European giants, ‘im brüderlichen Schrank’ (in the fraternal cabinet), where there is the productive encounter with ideas, creativity, difference.

As The Grand Budapest Hotel slowly retreats from its inner narratives, our storyteller adds: ‘To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it -- but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvellous grace!’ (Screenplay, 116). This world has indeed ‘vanished’ and yet continues to be ‘sustained’ through its staging in nostalgic homage, through representation – the ‘framing’, or ‘boxing’ of European cultural memory.

Pardaad Chamsaz,  Collaborative Doctoral Student

References and further reading:

Wes Anderson, Screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Society of the Crossed Keys: Selections from the writings of Stefan Zweig, (London, 2014). YK.2014.a.19878

Stefan Zweig, Die Welt von gestern : Erinnerungen eines Europäers. (Stockholm, 1942) YA.1990.a.17913. English translation The World of Yesterday (trans. Anthea Bell), (London, 2009). YC.2011.a.55

Stefan Zweig, Ungeduld des Herzens (Stockholm, 1949) X.989/77992. Englsh translation, Beware of Pity (trans. Anthea Bell) (London, 2011) H.2012/.6135

Matt Zoller Seitz, The Wes Anderson Collection, (New York, 2013). LC.31.b.13686

Arthur Searle, Catalogue of the Music Manuscripts, The British Library Stefan Zweig Collection (London, 1999).  MUS 780.164 BRI

Oliver Matuschek, Ich kenne den Zauber der Schrift: Katalog und Geschichte der Autographensammlung Stefan Zweig (Vienna, 2005) YF.2006.a.13265

Stefan Zweig Collection: Music, literary and historical manuscripts, (British Library, Zweig MS 1-218)

Richard Brody, ‘Stefan Zweig, Wes Anderson, and a longing for the past’ (The New Yorker, 14/03/2014)

Max Nelson, ‘Wes Anderson’s Elegy to Stefan Zweig’, (Los Angeles Review of Books, 14/03/2014)

21 November 2014

The Death of a Countess and the Draw of Local History

Add comment Comments (0)

Some time ago, in my blog post about the Austro-Italian Front of the First World War, I mentioned the accidental death of Lucy Christalnigg, which occurred in the tense months before war broke out, and rather presaged it.

Shortly after my post was published, I was contacted by the author of a new book about Lucy, who then kindly donated a copy to the Library (The Last Summer: the story of Lucy Christalnigg and the end of a world, by Nello Cristianini, now at YK.2014.a.19718).

Dr Cristianini gave us the English version, since we’re the British national library, but it is also available in Italian, German and Slovene, reflecting the complicated history of the borderland area in which Lucy’s story took place. My colleagues tell me that mine is the first European Studies blog entry which has led to a donation, and, to me, this illustrates the symbiotic relationship between the Library and authors. The BL is eligible to receive a copy of all books published annually in the UK and Ireland, and uses many acquisition processes for tracing and claiming these books. Overseas publications come to staff attention through publisher catalogues, approval plans and other means, but there are always books which slip through the net, whether they be UK or overseas publications. These are often items from small publishers, whose output is not listed as systematically as that of the big ones. We are still reliant on authors to contact us and let us know about these books. Even in this day and age, the computer cannot completely replace interpersonal contact, in-depth collection knowledge, or the ability to acquire it.

I had assumed, finding her story in newspapers on the centenary of her death, that Lucy Christalnigg’s story was quite well-known. In fact, although known along the Italian-Slovenian border where she died, it had never been fully researched until Dr. Cristianini, who was born in Gorizia himself, went to search the archives of three countries for this piece of his local history. Lucy’s story is a snapshot of her time and place. As an Austro-Hungarian aristocrat, she represented a class which did not survive the War, yet she was also a thoroughly modern woman, a racing driver who won many prizes and had apparently taken her own car at great speed around the hairpin bends of pitch-black mountain passes the night she died.  Ironically, it was on the straight valley road where she was shot that she probably least expected to die.

Lucy Christalnigg at the wheel of her car. (Photo courtesy of Dr Nello Cristianini)

Lucy’s husband, Oskar Christalnigg von und zu Gillenstein, was a scion of a Carinthian family who were apparently of Slovene blood. Count Christalnigg was active in the Slovenian publishing society, the Slovenska Matica, and encouraged education in the Slovene language. His close political contacts included Ivan Hribar the Liberal mayor of Ljubljana and a renowned pan-Slav.  Count Christalnigg is likely to have been of a less radical inclination than Hribar, like the many other Austro-Hungarian aristocrats who sponsored “national revivals” in their local areas, expecting these to reinforce the empire. However, the awakening of local patriotism had unintended consequences, and after 1918 the old, trans-national Habsburg aristocracy found itself living in a variety of brand new states, some of which suspected their loyalty. The best-known case is that of the Bohemian nobility, which had to learn to be Czech, with mixed results (a substantial number later aligned with the Sudeten German cause and then became Nazis), but others faced similar dilemmas.

Oskar Christalnigg’s family seat lay in a part of north-east Carinthia that in 1919 was substantially Slovene-speaking. As the empire split apart and reformed as new states, it was claimed by both German Austria and Yugoslavia, to which the majority of Slovene lands had already been assigned (though the western-most lands were occupied by Italy as a consequence of the War). The resulting plebiscite left his main home just inside Austria, but his properties to the south were now in Yugoslavia and Italy, and Yugoslavia quickly embarked on land reforms which aimed to break up the old Austro-Hungarian landed estates, with compensation to landowners as long as they were not members of the Habsburg dynasty. Oskar Christalnigg quietly retired to his Austrian castle   with his second wife, no doubt relieved that the Austrian Republic had stripped him of only his title.

Schloss Erverstein, Oskar Christalnigg’s Austrian Castle (picture from Wikimedia Commons)

Local history books seem to me to be rooted in the same enthusiasm for particular places that motivated “national revivals” and their patrons. It is this enthusiasm and sense of place which brings the past to life through hunting down information on obscure or forgotten tales, and gives it a human face.

Janet Ashton, WEL Cataloguing Team Manager

14 November 2014

Silesia: a borderland in Central Europe

Add comment Comments (0)

Silesia is a region now located mainly in Poland with small strips in the Czech Republic and Germany. Historically the province has been divided into the north-western Lower Silesia and the south-eastern Upper Silesia with the two biggest cities Wrocław (Breslau) on the Oder and Katowice respectively.  In the early Middle Ages Silesia was populated by various Slav tribes and was part of Great Moravia and Bohemia.  

At the end of the 10th century it was incorporated into the Polish state by Mieszko I. Over the course of the next few centuries Silesia was ruled by the Silesian Piasts. In the 13th century the Piasts brought in a large number of German settlers and since then Silesia was under the influence of German culture and language.  Eventually it became part of Bohemia in 1335, and two centuries later fell under Habsburg rule. Its rich natural resources, especially coal and iron-ore deposits, and its important strategic position for Prussia were the cause of  wars with Austria for the possession of Silesia in the mid-18th century. Consequently, Frederick the Great of Prussia conquered most of Silesia and only a small part of the south-eastern corner was retained by Austria.

Upper Silesians
Traditonal Upper Silesian costumes, from Eduard Duller, Das Deutsche Volk in seinen Mundarten, Sitten, Gebräuchen, Festen und Trachten (Leipzig, 1847) British Library 10256.d.20.

Prussian Silesia was then subjected to Germanisation, particularly strong during the implementation of the ‘Kulturkampf’ policy)  in the second half of the 19th century.  Lower Silesia was predominantly inhabited by Germans and was Protestant, while Upper Silesia had a mixed population of Germans, Poles and Silesians with Catholicism as the prevailing religion. The latter are regarded as an ethnic group of Slav origin speaking in Silesian. There is now an ongoing debate whether Silesian is a distinctive language, a Polish dialect or a regional language. Upper Silesians spoke Silesian at home and either German or Polish in public and clearly emphasized that they were neither Germans nor Poles.  Although Silesians had never created their own state, they built a society with a distinctive culture and language. In the 19th century there were unsuccessful attempts to codify Silesian, and only in 2003 was the first publishing house founded to publish books in Silesian.  

Upper Silesia was an arena of political clashes between Polish and German nationalist movements at the turn of the 20th century. Each aimed to win the support of the local population regarding  its ownership. Ironically, the Kulturkampf served to strengthen Polish nationalism in the region, which eventually led to the inclusion of the eastern part of Upper Silesia into the newly-reborn Poland in 1922. This followed three Silesian uprisings in 1919-1921 and a 1921 plebiscite organised by the League of Nations. The aim of the uprisings was to win autonomy for Upper Silesia either within the Polish or German state. The uprisings were, however, considered by some Silesians as a civil war. The plebiscite was to decide its national status.  Both Germany and Poland wanted this territory due to its heavy industrialisation and strong economic development.

Silesia plebisciteThe results of the plebiscite held in 1921 in Upper Silesia from Stefan Dziewulski, Wyniki Plebiscytu na Górnym śląsku. (Warsaw, 1921)  X.700/15938. The red areas voted to be part of Poland, the blue ones to be part of Germany

The solution was thus to divide it between the two countries. Subsequently, the Prussian Province of Silesia within Germany retained Lower Silesia and the western part of the disputed territory of Upper Silesia. Austrian Silesia was mostly awarded to the newly-created Czechoslovakia, with a small area included in Poland. The region granted to Poland formed the Silesian Voivodeship and received significant autonomy from the Polish government, with its own legislative body and treasury. Polish Upper Silesia (the eastern part) was economically most important as it comprised three-quarters of Silesia’s coal production. The demographic structure of the divided territory, with the Poles and Germans living on both sides, was, however, politically disadvantageous.

At the beginning of the Second World War Upper Silesia was immediately annexed by the Nazis to the Third Reich and the extermination of the Polish population took place. After the war the German inhabitants were expelled, with Poland shifting westwards in 1945. Nowadays, in a free Poland, there are political movements seeking autonomy, separation or even  full independence for Silesia.

Magda Szkuta, Curator East European (Polish) Studies

References/further reading

Tomasz Kamusella, Silesia and Central European Nationalisms: The Emergence of National and Ethnic Groups in Prussian Silesia and Austrian Silesia, 1848-1918 (West Lafayette, 2007) m07/12120

The Problem of Upper Silesia (London, 1921) 08072.c.6

Stefan Dziewulski, Wyniki Plebiscytu na Górnym Śląsku (Warszawa, 1921) X.700/15938.

27 August 2014

Remembering the Isonzo Front

Add comment Comments (1)

On August 10th, while looking at the daily headlines online, I spotted one commemorating the centenary of the first death on the “forgotten” Austro-Italian Front.

This was the strange death by “friendly fire” of Countess Lucy Christalnigg, a Red Cross volunteer and amateur racing driver who was shot by nervous border guards when she apparently ignored a request to stop. She was driving along the winding valley road which still runs the length of the river Soča in what was southern Austria and is now western Slovenia, very close to the Italian border. It was 13 days since the Austro-Hungarian Empire had declared war on Serbia; just a week since Italy had announced its intention to remain neutral.

Road by Soca
The valley road where Lucy Christalnigg was killed (photo: Janet Ashton) 

The Countess’s death is still something of a mystery: which enemy, on the border with a neutral country far from the action, might she have been mistaken for? 

If the sentries wrongly took her for an Italian insurgent, they were prescient at least in their suspicions of their neighbour. In April 1915, Italy entered the war on the side of the Allied powers, who promised large swathes of Austrian territory from the Alps to the Adriatic ports in return. This led to the opening a long mountain front that ran the length of their mutual border, and saw some of the most terrible battles of the First World War, a bloodbath of ice and fire.

Map of the Italian Front, 1915-1917, from the History Department of the US Military Academy West Point (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

In the UK, this has been called the “forgotten” front, perhaps known only as the backdrop to Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, but it is far from forgotten in the countries affected. The most infamous battle was 1917’s Caporetto, whose name entered Italian idiom as a byword for disaster. Caporetto is the Italian name for the tiny town of Kobarid in Slovenia, very few miles down the same valley road from the spot where Lucy Christalnigg was killed. It was then also known by the German name Karfreit, underscoring the complexity of the area’s history. In Austria, Karfreit was the “miracle” battle.

This war cost the mainly Slovene-speaking civilian population of the area very dearly. Many were displaced to refugee camps, or fell victim to hunger, cold and disease. Once praised by the Austrian Emperor as “the most loyal subjects”, Slovene-speakers were regarded with suspicion as Slavs and subject to heavy censorship from 1914 onwards, even as they fought alongside their German-speaking compatriots to preserve the Habsburg Empire. 

Italians in turn soon learned the cost of the expansionist ambitions of their government. Military discipline was homicidally brutal, and the ill-equipped invading troops suffered constant military setbacks at the hands of Austria-Hungary and its German Allies, including one young commander named Erwin Rommel. Ultimately, Italy was on the victorious side, but did not receive everything it expected at the Peace Conference, which remained a source of great bitterness to nationalists and the bereaved.

Italy did take possession of the Soča Valley (Isonzo in Italian) between the wars, subjecting the area to a relentless policy of Italianization. In Kobarid, Mussolini ordered construction of a charnel house (photo above, by Janet Ashton) for the remains of the innumerable Italian victims of their 1917 defeat, the awful price of a few miles of mountain valley. After 1945 the area went to Yugoslavia and from 1991 has been part of the newly-independent Slovenia. It is now known as a peaceful destination for outdoor sports, popular for hiking or for kayaking the turquoise rapids of the Soča. Where there were gun placements there are campsites today, but amid the wild flower meadows and snowy peaks lie numerous reminders of the War. Kobarid is home to an excellent, non-partisan museum devoted to the victims of the battles of the Soča/Isonzo Front. From it, the Kobarid Historical Trail runs up into the mountains, taking in the charnel house and the remains of war-time fortifications. This is part of a longer way-marked trail called the Pot Miru, the Walk of Peace, which has been receiving a lot of attention in tourist publications this year, and follows the route of the Front down to the Adriatic near Trieste. It passes the open air museums of trenches and dugouts which punctuate the landscape, and the graveyards for troops on both sides.  Many of the graves have no names, as the remains of the man or boy inside could not be identified. In the village of Srpenica, a stone cross marks the spot where Lucy Christalnigg was shot.

 Soca Valley fortifications
The remains of First World War fortifications in the Soča Valley (photo: Janet Ashton)

Slovenia, Austria and Italy are all participating in the Europeana 1914-1918 project, digitising objects from library collections and from the families of ordinary participants in the war to record its impact for posterity.

Janet Ashton, WEL Cataloguing Team Manager

References/further reading:

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. (London, 1929). C.131.c.2.

Koren, Tadej. The First World War Outdoor Museums: the Isonzo Front, 1915-1917. (Kobarid, 2009.)

Krauss, Alfred. Das “Wunder von Karfreit,” im besonderen der Durchbruch bei Flitsch und die Bezwingung des Tagliamento. (Munchen, 1926). 09084.c.30.

Monticone, Alberto. La Battaglia di Caporetto. (Udine, 1999). YA.2001.a.34735

Thompson, Mark. The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919. (London, 2009). YC.2010.a.6941

War Cemetery
 An Austro Hungarian war cemetery for the dead of the Italian Front (photo: Janet Ashton)