Home > Expression > Beware of Pity: Stefan Zweig

Beware of Pity: Stefan Zweig

After hunting for this book for almost half a decade, Bryan Prince ordered it for me. I took it for whatever price he said, since I knew that it was invaluable. I read the introduction, where the author meets a narrator of the book in a pub. The heroic lieutenant will soon be narrating his story about how “courage is often nothing but inverse of weakness”. He tells that in the battlefield the courage is found in herd but not in an individual. The courage of herd arises from the fear of being left behind, fear of opposing the mass. They did not escape from the war, rather they escaped into it since they were afraid of being drawn into poverty. The war, an invitation to death, was an escape from visible mortality.

The author, starts as:

“There are two kinds of pity:

One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is no more than a heart’s impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused at the sight of another’s unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one’s own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only kind that counts, the unsentimental but the creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and beyond.”

The book is about the lieutenant in his young and handsome days, when he asks for a woman to dance. Only, to know she was lame. With a desire to overcome his guilt, he invites the woman for lunch, giving her the hope….and then the flood of emotions.

I have an inkling that I am going to love this one. I will try to keep up writing as I keep on reading.

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Categories: Expression
  1. May 14, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I just received my copy a week ago, but since I am already in middle of a couple of other books, have resolved to wait. Your blog is pushing me to read it 🙂
    BTW, have you read Knut Hamsun. I am currently reading his Mysteries and am enthralled.

  2. May 14, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    My reading, with research, is pathetically slow. Nope, haven’t read Hamsun. Will take a look at it too. My library is good at university – lots of arts 🙂

  3. May 22, 2008 at 8:16 am

    “The heroic lieutenant will soon be narrating his story about how “courage is often nothing but inverse of weakness”. He tells that in the battlefield the courage is found in herd but not in an individual. The courage of herd arises from the fear of being left behind, fear of opposing the mass. They did not escape from the war, rather they escaped into it since they were afraid of being drawn into poverty. The war, an invitation to death, was an escape from visible mortality.”—-

    Great words…I must read the book…..

  4. May 26, 2008 at 12:13 am

    I finally managed to read it – it was a pretty good read, though I sometimes felt bogged down by the narrator’s over-analysis of his emotions, and also his swirling in the same circles repeatedly.
    I loved the psycho-analytical angle though – Zweig takes us through the whole mental process of being faced with choices, our reactions to it and the irresistible urge to play God – only to ruin our life and lives of those we pity.

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