A newly published English translation of the work Ostende: 1936, Sommer der Freundschaft (2014) by author and literary reporter for Der Spiegel, Volker Weidermann, centers on the relationship between Zweig and Austrian novelist Joseph Roth and their extensive circle of emigrant friends and acquaintances during the summer of 1936 in the Belgian seaside resort of Ostend.
Stefan Zweig and Josef Roth in Ostende, Belgium. Photography. 1936. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)
Currently enjoying heightened attention from literary critics both here in the United States and abroad, Ostend: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, and the summer before the dark (Pantheon Books, 2016) is reviewed here by New York Times book critic Jennifer Senior as “light on its feet, a reverie in a way; when it’s over, you’ll half wonder if you’ve dreamed it … [Weidermann] writes the book as a novel, almost, recreating scenes and channeling characters’ thoughts.” A slightly more extensive review by Tara Isabella Burton for the New Republic can be found here.
Joseph Roth died in Paris in 1939 just before the outbreak of the Second World War, a fact noted by Zweig in his last letter to Friderike dated 22 February 1942: “… remember the good Josef Roth and Rieger, how glad I always was for them, that they had not to go through those ordeals.” Whereas Roth died by natural causes (attributed to his alcoholism), Zweig chose to quietly take leave by his own volition. Ostend recounts an effort, albeit an ultimately doomed one, to reclaim a shred of the familiar and a life as the two friends would have known it prior to the rise of fascism within 20th-century Europe.
Listen to English actor Peter Firth read an abridged version of Ostend on BBC Radio 4.