Hannes Richter

Austrian Fellow at the Lilly Library

Hannes Richter

Austrian writer Gloria Kaiser

"Clear, silently serving the word and the truth" - this quotation from Stefan Zweig was the focus of Gloria Kaiser’s research during her Fellowship at the Lilly Library of Indiana University, Bloomington. For more than ten years, during her winter residence in Brazil, Gloria Kaiser has devoted much of her research and writing to those works of Stefan Zweig which were written in exile.

Among other treasures, the Lilly Library’s collection comprises the original of Stefan Zweig’s well known and widely read autobiography, "Die Welt von Gestern. Erinnerungen eines Europäers" ("The World of Yesterday. Memories of a European"). The original working title was "Meine drei Leben" ("My Three Lives"). Stefan Zweig wrote this text in exile in Brazil. Gloria Kaiser had the opportunity to compare the original text, line by line, with the printed, final edited version.

Exile and expulsion would represent for any person a major catastrophe. However, for a writer it is particularly difficult, for he loses not only his native country, but in most cases the lang uage which represents his tool. Almost every text written in exile is filled with aggression and can be understood as a response of the writer’s inner self to his exile. Aggression can hardly be noticed in Stefan Zweig's text. What can be clearly felt is the utmost discipline he employed in each formulation of the text. He had already been exiled and his books had been burned when he wrote his autobiography. Although he had already turned his back on the country that had expelled him, he did not succumb to a loss of objectivity nor did he allow himself to lapse into cutting and acerbic prose. He weighed meticulously every word he used, reinforcing it only when he believed it to be absolutely necessary.

Gloria Kaiser was profoundly influenced by the results of these studies which have deepened her perspective and her judgement of Stefan Zweig and his work. Working with Stefan Zweig’s hand-written corrections provided a glimpse into his creative work and proved to be an invaluable experience for her. In her scientific work, Gloria Kaiser has shown us various facets of Stefan Zweig as an author in exile. She thus adds another piece to the mosaic that will help us better understand the complex personality and the body of literature that Stefan Zweig produced.

As we know Stefan Zweig lived a very cosmopolitan life. He abhorred everything that was narrow or narrow-minded. He also lived a conciliatory life, and he tried to adhere to a path of reconciliation by exercising great self-discipline. Perhaps he demanded too much of himself. We do know that he committed suicide in Petrópolis near Rio de Janeiro on February 22, 1942.

The fellowship offered to Mrs. Kaiser was made possible on the recommendation of Mrs. Margrit B. Krewson, the former German/Dutch Area Specialist at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.