Thursday, 19 November 2015

Fear by Stefan Zweig Review

I’ve read a few of Stefan Zweig’s novellas and found them to be generally pretty decent; Fear is the first one I haaaaated!

Irene Wagner is a 30 year old wife and mother, married for 8 years to a successful lawyer, who decides to have an affair with a young pianist(hehe!). Except she begins to be blackmailed by her lover’s former mistress who discovers her infidelity and the fear of being found out drives Irene to the brink of suicide. What’sa she to do!?

I understand that this is supposedly about how guilty suffering is far worse than being found out and punished but that’s hardly a new idea nor is it presented in an especially original or interesting way by Zweig. The novella is instead page after page of overwrought, hand-wringing dreariness as Irene worries and worries and worries and worries and oh my god, it just keeps going like this! 

Irene is such a loathsome character. Initially coming off as a shallow, tediously bourgeois housewife who thinks nothing of her family to have a fling, Zweig turns her into an hysterical idiot, sending her towards a stupidly melodramatic finale. He really doesn’t write this character well and, rather than show profound insight into Irene and her situation, creates someone with the depth of a soap opera character. 

Then again her husband’s no better. Without going into spoilers (for a 90 year old story but such is the internet!), why on earth would he behave the way he does – what the hell did he think he was doing?! And it does Irene’s character no favours that she would be fine with his actions too! These two are a disaster – they deserve each other! 

The only strong feelings I had about Irene and her moronic plight was immense boredom and anger at having to read the monotonously repetitive drivel throughout. Stefan Zweig wrote some compelling novellas in his time like Chess but Fear definitely ain’t one of them!


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