Finally, I finished it, which I started more than a year ago (and that was a few months ago when I started this post). It’s a wonderful book, and every time I read it during commute I wanted to keep reading till the end at home, but it never happened.

This blog was started at the same time, so some of it sounds very outdated now.

A while ago I talked about Zweig and Hendrik Van Loon with some friends:

“茨威格的东西我以前看过一些,很喜欢其中悲天悯人的人道主义,不过除了《象棋的故事》和《人类的群星闪耀时》以外都不记得了。见过《昨日的世界》的中译本但没看过。…《异端的权利》我以前是看过的,也很欣赏,也忘光光了。它是三联书店黄皮和绿皮的文化生活译丛里的,那套书我父母基本上出一本买一本。我记得还有《人类群星闪耀时》,《彼得潘》,还有好几本房龙的。我最喜欢的是《宽容》,和《异端的权利》骨子里是一样的。我从中知道了一些人名:蒙田,斯宾诺莎,汤姆·佩恩等等,不过内容除了作为序言的那个“无知山谷”寓言以外没记住别的。也许不是巧合(a friend complained that The Right To Heresy is out of print),《宽容》在美国1920’s以后就没有再版过,《人类的故事》倒是去年还出了新版。”

(Van Loon visited Zweig’s Salzburg home during the golden years after World War I, but that’s the only time Zweig mentioned him.)

I bought a mint-condition 1940 Tolerance, but haven’t got time to reread it. The World of Yesterday is still in print, so I got it from Amazon along with Classic Feynman (I always wait till I get enough things to go just a bit over $25 for free shipping–yeah I’m that cheap). Seems like these are going to be my favorite books for a while.

I knew I was going to love this book only after a few pages that manifests its main themes, all of which are what interest me the most: history, especially the dramatic changes in the first half of 20th century; arts; the sense of a lost world. I would be quoting half of the book if I were to write about every topic that fascinates me, so here’s only one: manuscript collecting. Zweig started it as a childish hobby at 15, but within 40 years he “had become an authority in the field of manuscripts and that I knew about every important handwriting, where it was, to whom it belonged, and how it had come to its possessor”. He dispersed his huge collection after he left his Salzburg home for good, but fortunately a large portion was preserved and now bestowed to the British Library, among which is the incredible thematic catalog of Mozart.