The new film directed by Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is now playing in select theatres around the country. The unique aesthetic and sensibility of the film, set in a 1930s fictional European country, was heavily influenced by the work of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig.
At one time among the most popular writers in the world, Zweig was also an inveterate manuscript collector, an attribute that we profiled previously in the magazine. Many of Zweig’s novels such as Beware of Pity, Letter from an Unknown Woman, and his memoir, The World of Yesterday, were international bestsellers and widely acclaimed by critics. Zweig’s popularity, however, has been in steady decline since his suicide in 1942.
But all that might change soon.
Wes Anderson, who inspires a rabid following amongst his fans, has loudly proclaimed his love for Zweig’s novels and declared in a fascinating interview with The Telegraph that he “stole from Zweig” while making his latest film:
“I had never heard of Zweig — or, if I had, only in the vaguest ways — until maybe six or seven years ago, something like that, when I just more or less by chance bought a copy of Beware of Pity. I loved this first book, and immediately there were dozens more in front of me that hadn’t been there before. They were all suddenly back in print. I also read the The Post Office Girl, which had been only published for the first time recently. The Grand Budapest Hotel has elements that were sort of stolen from both these books.”
Anderson fans will now likely be in pursuit of Zweig’s almost forgotten novels. While some of Zweig’s titles have enjoyed recent reprints, Zweig on the collecting front remains extremely affordable:
An American first edition of Amok, one of Zweig’s popular novellas, (New York: Viking, 1931), is typically under $100.
An American first edition of Beware of Pity, Zweig’s longest work, (New York: Viking, 1939) costs a little more – about $30 without the dust jacket; $100 with it.
An American first edition of The Royal Game (also known as Chess Story) published in 1944 shortly after Zweig’s death runs about $60.
And an American first edition of The World of Yesterday (New York: Viking, 1943), Zweig’s popular memoir of the literary life in Europe – particularly Vienna – before World War II, also costs about $100.
Additionally, you can enjoy the sensibility of Zweig channeled through the keen directorial eye of Wes Anderson by catching The Grand Budapest Hotel at your local independent cinema. Previews available online in the usual places.
Reprinted with permission from Fine Books & Collections, Author: Nate Pedersen
Rare Finds are a special feature from Biblio and the wonderful writers at Fine Books & Collections. Visit their site to see more about the rare book trade.