This was a very enjoyable and well written book!
It only took me an evening getting through it. Once I opened it and started reading I simply couldn’t stop, so Zweig was/is one hell of a writer in other words.
I bought the work back in January and got through it last month. It first caught my attention as the book in itself is very pretty.
If you suffer from serious “book addiction” you’ll appreciate something that has been beautifully assembled such as “Genius And Discovery.”
The work features 5 historical miniatures. After a nice foreword it starts off with “Flight Into Immortality” which deals with the discovery of the Pacific Ocean. The topic is fascinating and fantastically recounted by Zweig who is off to a very strong start.
“The Resurrection Of George Frideric Handel” then follows suit at which point the author lost my interest a bit since I find tales of discovery way more intriguing. The ending of this miniature was very good though but I personally felt that the rest was a bit dragged out.
“The Genius Of A Night” about the writing of “The Marseillaise” is better written and more engaging than the previous miniature. The fate of the man who was the rightful author of this iconic piece is pretty tragic.
Finally we abandon the topic of music, reaching the highlight of this book: ” The Discovery Of El Dorado” about John Augustus Sutter. This is a shocking read about a self-made man who traveled over to California purchasing land which he turned into a very profitable ranch/farm. Misfortune struck him when gold was found within the sand on his large property as word quickly came out about the natural riches resulting in his home being ran over by looters from all corners of the world. The effect of the Gold Rush is grizzly recounted. Those who worked on Sutter’s ranch even turned against him as they also wanted a piece of the cake. Everything he had built up after many years of hard work was completely ruined.
This was in many ways the richest man in the world as he legally owned San Francisco. When he then tried to claim back his land many years later using the justice system he nearly got lynched by an angry mob who were certainly not interested in their territory being repossessed. The judge also had to flee, Sutter even lost some of his relatives to the angry citizens.
Sutter ended up completely destitute walking around in Washington trying to get back what was rightfully his. A truly sad story that can make any pro-democracy/populist doubt their convictions.
“The First Word To Cross The Ocean” is the last miniature in this delightful work of art. It was a nice read about persistence more than anything as it took many attempts before communication was established across the atlantic via the Transatlantic telegraph cable.
I would highly recommend Stefan Zweig’s work and cannot wait to read more from him!!!
The author of this work left Austria in 1934 with the uprising of Nazism. He eventually settled in Brazil where he and his new wife committed suicide in 1942.