Wednesday, the 6th of April, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today my pick is a biography by Stefan Zweig, Montaigne, published first in German in 1960 and one of his last works before his suicide. Born in Austria in 1881, Zweig was the author of novels, plays, biographies and journalistic pieces and one of the ‘world’s best known’ writers in the 1920s and 1930s. Educated in Austria, France and Germany, he was living in Salzburg before being forced into exile by the Nazis. He moved to England, then Brazil and finally, New York. His subtle portrayal of characters in his works is attributed to his interest in psychology and particularly, Freud.

Montaigne is described as ‘Zweig’s typically passionate and readable biography of Michel de Montaigne’. In the book, Zwieg raises arguments for ‘intellectual freedom, tolerance and humanism’ drawing parallels between Montaigne’s time and his own–where Catholicism and Protestantism in the former and Fascism and Communism in the latter were destroying the liberal culture he loved. He defends freedom of thought and argues for peace and compromise. The edition I have is a Pushkin Press paperback published in 2015 and translated by poet, essayist and literary translator Will Stone, who has also written the introduction. At the back of my copy is this quote

He who thinks freely for himself, honours all freedom on earth

I had wanted to read Zweig’s bios of which I had heard quite a bit, but this specific one was just a random pick to start with. But looking at the themes that this touches upon (freedom of thought, intellectual freedom, and more so, tolerance), what stands out is its relevance in the present day as well. I am certainly looking forward to picking this one up, though I think possibly German Literature Month later in the year will end up being when I actually do.

Have you read Zweig’s books–fiction, bios or both? Which are your favourites if any? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Book info and cover image via Goodreads, as is also the author info

Lisa’s pick this week is Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana and the Stoning of San Francisco by Alia Volz, the memoir of a woman who’s mom provided medical marijuana via marijuana brownies for thousands of AIDS patients in San Francisco.

21 thoughts on “Shelf Control #179: Montaigne by Stefan Zweig

  1. First off, Zweig is a huge favourite of mine – I’ve read quite a bit and loved everything! This one was a relatively recent read and a particular favourite because I love Montaigne too, and Zweig’s book is informed by the world events through which he was living. So I recommend this one very much. Journeys, a collection of his travel writing, is very evocative. And if you need convincing that Zweig is no lightweight, Chess/Chess Story or Buchmendel will do that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very glad to hear that. For me so far, he’s one who’s been on my list of authors to get to but which I haven’t yet, but am hoping to put that to rights soon. Montaigne I’m familiar with from college courses but yet to read more of him. Chess Story is on my list though I’m yet to get a copy, and I’ll be sure to look for journeys too. I know Pushkin has Chess Story but I’m not sure they have journeys.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, dear – fingerslip! I meant to say how amazingly relevant they still seem to our own world.

    My home town is Bath where Zweig lived for a while. One of my regular walks takes me past a plaque on a gatepost of the house where he lived commemorating him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh what fun that he lived so close to where you are. I knew he’d lived in England but not that it was Bath.

      The themes Zweig brings out as the description notes do certainly point to Montaigne’s relevance today, especially tolerance.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve enjoyed both Zweig’s Chess and his Burning Secret novellas, but haven’t considered his nonfiction before now. I’d be interested in what you had to say about this, especially since Karen is an aficionada of all his work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have yet to get to Chess Story but do plan to. I’d heard quite a bit about his bios and kept meaning to try one, and bought Montaigne last year. I hope I can get to read it soon. Karen has got me wanting to look into his travel writings as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. No, another author whose been on my radar for a long time but I’ve still to read anything by him. This sounds interesting, but my tastes would run more to his fiction, I think – certainly to start with. Look forward to hearing what you think of it when you get to it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. His fiction is on my get to list as well and I’d have probably ordinarily started with that as well but something I read about his bios got me interested in trying one, and I ended up picking one of these first.

      Liked by 1 person

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