The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig

 

Juliet Sulejmani | April 09, 2016

The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
265 including the afterword
Translated from German
Originally published in 1982.
Stefan Zweig and Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and photographer.
November 28 1881 – February 22, 1942.

 

The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig was the March read for the Untitled Book Club, chosen by @triinbooks.

I had not heard of Stefan Zweig before and didn’t really know what to expect.

 I can’t say that I enjoyed the book, because it was a rollercoaster ride for my emotions, but I am glad that I read it and I am sure that I will be reading other works by Zweig in the future.

The novel, set in 1926, postwar Austria follows the life of Christine Hoflehener, who suffers a great deal of loss and revelation throughout the story. Christine is a poor young postal worker, who is invited to visit her wealthy aunt who is holidaying from America. While she stays with her aunt she is shown a world, which she could have never even imagined. It is often described as a ‘Cinderella story’. Her aunt helps to transform her into a respectable, beautiful member of sophisticated society. Christine succeeds in tricking everyone, including herself, that she is a part of this world, until eventually this façade comes crumbling down, taking Christine way, way down with it.

 At this point in the story, I was deeply worried for Christine and what will happen to her once she has to go back to her poor life, to look after her sick mother, where no-one really looks twice at her or even cares about what she has to say. I am also angry at her aunt for judging her niece and also for not helping her and her family when she clearly has the means to. However, you begin to realise that her aunt is actually afraid of losing everything that she has and acts accordingly to look after herself to maintain the life that she has built.

For me, this book was an eye-opener, and insight into post war Austria. It also made me feel more grateful for my life and the possibilities and opportunities that we have today. I also feel though, that some things don’t really change. There is still a big divide in terms of poverty and wealth, and there are people who are fighting everyday to not just get ahead but stay afloat.

Notes:

– This book was published posthumously, it was found amongst Zweig’s belongings after he and his wife were found dead after they took their life in a suicide pact together. Which is similar to a part in the story where Christine and another Ferdinand think about taking their lives and putting an end to their struggle.

– It is believed that Zweig’s own suicide plans were documented in this story, maybe it was his suicide note, maybe not. I don’t know enough about Zweig to be able to make such assumptions, but also I wonder if maybe he hadn’t yet finished the book, maybe he was hoping for a different kind of ending, which is why he hadn’t yet published the novel.

 – I also discovered that Wes Anderson is a fan of Zweig’s work and used ‘The Post Office Girl’ and Zweig himself as inspiration for his film ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel.” I’ll definitely have to re-watch it now so I can see the parallels.

Book 14 for 2016

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