Summer Before the Dark
Volker Weidermann, Carol Brown Janeway
A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week
It’s as if they’re made for each other. Two men, both falling, but holding each other up for a time.
Ostend, 1936: the Belgian seaside town is playing host to a coterie of artists, intellectuals and madmen, who find themselves in limbo while Europe gazes into an abyss of fascism and war. Among them is Stefan Zweig, a man in crisis: his German publisher has shunned him, his marriage is collapsing, his house in Austria no longer feels like home. Along with his lover Lotte, he seeks refuge in this paradise of promenades and parasols, where he reunites with his estranged friend Joseph Roth. For a moment, they create a fragile haven; but as Europe begins to crumble around them, they find themselves trapped on an uncanny kind of holiday, watching the world burn.
‘Evocative, sharply drawn portraits… an engrossing history’ Kirkus, starred review
‘Sparkling…Weidermann’s storytelling is piquant’ Publishers Weekly
‘Brilliantly researched and riveting’ Die Welt
Absolutely exquisite... a contemporary classic Dave Eggers Resonant... as Europe tumbles towards darkness, the writers in Ostend create a haven for love and literature - one they know is doomed - that Weidermann evokes with skill and delicacy Sunday Times Death in Venice with more sex, more booze, more action Financial Times For such a slim book to convey with such poignancy the extinction of a generation of "Great Europeans" is a triumph. Sunday Telegraph Elegiac... a potent and melancholy book... Weidermann has combed letters, diaries and reminiscences and used them to tell his sad tale as if it were a novel, in a highly wrought prose style that... matches the heightened emotions and circumstances of his protagonists Michael Prodger, The Times Captivating... [an] effortless combination of grand epoch-defining moments with seemingly mundane observations of the everyday... a historical triumph. Independent A sign of how far [the revival of Zweig and Roth's work] has succeeded... Weidermann finds a moment of relative calm and normality in the emigres lives New Statesman Intimately explores Zweig and Roth's co-dependent friendship Observer Sparkling... Weidermann's storytelling is piquant Publishers Weekly Taut, novelistic... in lyrical prose, Weidermann recreates the atmosphere of an ephemeral moment... evocative, sharply drawn portraits and a wry, knowing narrative voice make for an engrossing history Kirkus (starred review) Weidermann magically evokes the mood of these artistic refugees as the sun set on the civilized order of Europe... abounds in poetry and deadpan understatement... The book is as transporting as fiction - I had to remind myself that it wasn't... Partly this is due to the level of detail. Mr Weidermann knows which cafe each writer favored, what they drank, which manuscripts they read aloud. It could be Hemingway Wall Street Journal Deeply affecting, economically expressed and almost unbearably sad Glasgow Herald A brilliant, hard to bear, short novel about doom Tribune Breezier and more brightly written than a study of two profound minds in torment on the eve of global disaster should reasonably be; an enthralling, juicy read Big Issue A fascinating story, brilliantly told. These writers come together for a summer and then move on, providing a snapshot of the desperate situation of the mid-1930s Jewish Chronicle Ostend is engaging as a meditation on the act of creation, one that explores how we make refuges out of our own pasts. New Republic Compellingly shows this doomed group at one of their last watering holes re-imagining their conversations and repartee London Magazine Another winner from Pushkin! Shiny New Books A rich, moving and entertaining portrait of a wonderful group of artists in transit Kaggy's Bookish Ramblings There's something extraordinarily expressive and expansive about the way friendship has been conveyed throughout this altogether elegiac book David Marx Book Reviews A story of literature and friendship, with an adjoining cast of characters including Arthur Koestler and Irmgard Keun European Literature Network A mesmerising, haunting read The Lady
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