Beware of Pity, By Stefan Zweig


Why re-translate a 20th-century novel? When the book concerned is Zweig's sole full-length work of fiction, and the translator the superlative Anthea Bell, the question answers itself.

In its earlier English version, almost 70 years old, this throat-gripping, heart-wringing tale of a blithe young Austrian cavalry officer who inspires the hopeless love of a disabled girl in a garrison town in 1914 read like a deeply touching story about the perils of trifling with another's soul.

Now it appears as the disquieting masterpiece it is. For all Zweig's excursions and digressions, the narrative truly gallops along, with the psychological suspense of Hofmiller's toxic pity and its outcome matched by the looming doom of crippled old Europe.