Beware of Pity
by Stefan Zweig, introduction by Joan Acocella, translated from the German by Phyllis and Trevor Blewitt
The great Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was a master anatomist of the deceitful heart, and Beware of Pity, the only novel he published during his lifetime, uncovers the seed of selfishness within even the finest of feelings.
Hofmiller, an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer stationed at the edge of the empire, is invited to a party at the home of a rich local landowner, a world away from the dreary routine of the barracks. The surroundings are glamorous, wine flows freely, and the exhilarated young Hofmiller asks his host's lovely daughter for a dance, only to discover that sickness has left her painfully crippled. It is a minor blunder that will destroy his life, as pity and guilt gradually implicate him in a well-meaning but tragically wrongheaded plot to restore the unhappy invalid to health.
Stefan Zweig was a dark and unorthodox artist; it's good to have him back.
— Salman Rushdie
Zweig's fictional masterpiece evokes the point at which Europe was pitched into chaos, beginning with a cavalry officer's faux-pas in a fusty drawing room, and concluding with the bullet that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand....Zweig constructs a devastating account of what happens when pity is misconstrued as love and brilliantly relays the catastrophic effects of arousing unwanted passion.
— The Guardian (UK)
In Zweig's fiction, someone in the story, in a way everyone, has a terrible secret. Secrets are integral to adventure stories [and] the experience of reading Zweig is not so much of entering the world of the story as of plunging inward and dreaming the story.
— Rachel Cohen, Bookforum
Stefan Zweig's Brilliant Novel: Beware of Pity, his first venture in longer fiction, is original and powerful work....He has written his first novel with an ease and expertness for which first novels are seldom notable: Beware of Pity reaffirms Zweig's great ability for story telling....Beware of Pity is an original and often brilliant [novel].
— Louis Kronenberger, The New York Times
Admired by readers as diverse as Freud, Einstein, Toscanini, Thomas Mann and Herman Goering.
— Edwin McDowell, The New York Times