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Zweig classic back on screen | reviews, news & interviews

Zweig classic back on screen

Zweig classic back on screen

The great Austrian novelist returns to the spotlight

The huge upsurge in interest in the Austrian author Stefan Zweig continues at the BFI Southbank when Letter from an Unknown Woman is revived next week. Shot by Max Ophüls in 1948, it beautifully captures the spirit of Zweig’s post-Hapsburg, pre-Freudian Vienna, where bourgeois lives are fired by romantic ardour and obsessive longing.

The novella on which it is based first appeared in 1922 and is published in this country in Selected Stories. It stars Louis Jourdan as a feckless concert pianist who, as he is about to leave Vienna to avoid a duel, hears from a woman (Joan Fontaine) who professes her long-concealed love for him. The story of the revived romance was a favourite of Zweig's: it also underpins Journey into the Past, which was published in English by Pushkin Press last year.

There’s no doubt the film’s re-release comes on the back of Pushkin Press’s heroic efforts to restore Zweig’s reputation in the English language, most recently with The World of Yesterday, his modest, humane memoir which shines a light into the Austro-Hungarian world which vanished in the 1920s and whose replacement sent Zweig towards exile and eventual suicide. Zweig’s excellent translator Anthea Bell has just been awarded an OBE (which admittedly may also have something to do with her work on Asterix).

Letter from an Unknown Woman opens on Friday 12 February at the BFI Southbank, the Irish Film Institute in Dublin and the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, while there are single screenings on Tuesday 2 March at the Courtyard in Hereford, Saturday 27 March at hmvcurzon in Wimbledon and Monday 29 March at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury. Full details here. Find Stefan Zweig's works on Amazon

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