Portrait of the Author as a Historian: Stefan Zweig
The Austrian writer, whose short stories and novellas have recently enjoyed a new burst of popularity, used history to remind us that a better life is possible, as Alexander Lee explains in his new series.
Stefan Zweig’s play Jeremias was performed for the first time at the Stadttheater in Zürich on February 27th, 1918. The Old Testament prophet was returned to life to deliver again his prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction. Castigating the people of Judah for having abandoned the faith of their fathers, Jeremiah warned that their punishment was at hand. His words went unheeded. At the instigation of the Temple priests, he was beaten and put in the stocks. When war with Babylon broke out, some urged King Zedekiah to put him to death. But as he was hurled into a cistern, they saw the terrible truth of his warnings. After a long siege, Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, its Temple was destroyed and its people were scattered. All that was left was for Jeremiah – rescued from his well by a Cushite – to mourn the city’s fate; in the final scene, he held its past up as a mirror to the present, in the hope that it might strengthen the exiles’ faith.