Beware of Pity
is very good. Zweig reminded me of Thomas Hardy in this novel. Here, Zweig plays with choice and circumstance and their lasting ramifications. This is a very emotional novel. No thoughts or feelings are really hidden—character sympathies and understandings are completely exposed in an unabashed frankness. Thus, the choices the characters make are absolutely understandable. Yet, it is difficult to witness the impact of these decisions, how circumstance and setting hasten the progression of their effects. This is not one of those stories that’s easily forgotten. The title of the English version of Zweig’s novel was well chosen. While it does reflect the message of Anton’s tale, it could also serve as a cautionary warning to the reader.
I do love Zweig’s style. Though I know that some critics feel that this book is essentially two novellas put together, I think Zweig perfectly balanced the two stories. Besides the obvious links, the two stories complement each other well, toying with sympathies and pity—both for oneself and for others—and how they affect choice. Through Zweig’s storytelling, the themes become more solidified. I really liked how Zweig worked this, and I now consider him among my favorite writers.