Audio Essay: A Poignant Warning About the Future from a Forgotten Writer

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Writer Stefan Zweig tried to warn the world about the future, but he gave up and committed suicide in 1942 as the world was engulfed in the flames of World War II.

Zweig is one of the most popular authors and essayists of the 20th century, born in Vienna, Austria during the end of the Habsburg Empire.

But like the Habsburgs, he is invisible today.

Through his writings, Zweig warned us—he told us to be careful of the future, showing us that in an instant so much can change. What did he see about his time that we can no longer see? What did he hear in the musical scores that he collected that we cannot?

As tensions continue to rise between Russia and Ukraine, what can we learn from his writings? With all of our radical changes, transformations, and wireless crowds staring into cell phone screens, in a way Zweig is speaking to us, our optimism about progress tempered with a feeling that something is not quite right.

Takeaway Host John Hockenberry has this audio essay, explaining that we may have forgot him after his death, but Stefan Zweig didn't forget us, and his world of yesterday speaks to our possible tomorrow.


Hosted by:

John Hockenberry

Produced by:

Jay Cowit and Vince Fairchild


T.J. Raphael

Comments [9]

Eric Bruskin from Bucks County, PA

This was amazing. I drove slower to be sure I didn't arrive before it was over. Is it possible to obtain a printed transcript?

May. 17 2014 04:26 PM
Eric Bruskin from Bucks County, PA

This was amazing. I drove slower to be sure I didn't arrive before it was over. Is it possible to obtain a printed transcript?

May. 16 2014 06:48 PM
Ed from Larchmont

The recent movie 'Budapest Hotel' is based on a novel of Stephan Zweig, this movie is thoroughly secular in outlook. 'This is how a secularist (atheist) sees the world.'

May. 14 2014 08:15 AM

Hi Mandy,

Thanks so much for your comment, and for listening! I checked in with our team - there are two songs we're playing:

Chopin Nocturne in b-flat minor Op 9 No 1
Chopin's Mazurka in f-sharp Minor Op. 59

Hope this helps, thanks again!


T. J. Raphael
Digital Content Editor
The Takeaway

May. 14 2014 06:59 AM
Susi from San Francisco

A great piece - I really loved your compassion in reading Stefan Zweig. I am glad that at least on NPR one still hears programs like this!

May. 13 2014 10:49 PM
Al Magary from San Francisco

Very nice piece about Stefan Zweig. I read several of his books, including The World of Yesterday, and now will look up more. I see there's a new biography, George Prochnik, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World (Random House, 2014).

May. 13 2014 03:25 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I will take into consideration committing suicide, thank you, (Just kidding)

I think I will stick to Mark Twain and Nathaniel West for my inspiration. I'll give Zweig a once over.

May. 13 2014 02:33 PM

What is the music you are playing in the background. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever created for the piano, and I don't have a copy, but have wanted one forever.

May. 13 2014 01:48 PM
Tina Rabin from Eugene Oregon

I am impressed and touched by your philosophical account of Zweig's message to humanity. Rarely does one hear such a personal dissertation on the radio.

May. 13 2014 12:30 PM

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