Confusion (New York Review Books Classics)
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Stefan Zweig was particularly drawn to the novella, and Confusion, a rigorous and yet transporting dramatization of the conflict between the heart and the mind, is among his supreme achievements in the form.
A young man who is rapidly going to the dogs in Berlin is packed off by his father to a university in a sleepy provincial town. There a brilliant lecture awakens in him a wild passion for learning—as well as a peculiarly intense fascination with the graying professor who gave the talk. The student grows close to the professor, becoming a regular visitor to the apartment he shares with his much younger wife. He takes it upon himself to urge his teacher to finish the great work of scholarship that he has been laboring at for years and even offers to help him in any way he can. The professor welcomes the young man’s attentions, at least on some days. On others, he rages without apparent reason or turns away from his disciple with cold scorn. The young man is baffled, wounded. He cannot understand.
But the wife understands. She understands perfectly. And one way or another she will help him to understand too.
first in the building where he himself lived; a half-deaf old lady had a nice little room to rent, and any of his students who took it had always been happy there. He’d see to everything else himself, he said; if I really showed that I meant what I said about taking my studies seriously, he would consider it a pleasant duty to help me in every way. On reaching his rooms he once again offered me his hand and invited me to visit him at home next evening, so that we could work out a programme of
the ageing man of that sober lecture hall, bidding me good night with a casual gesture. I spent the next two weeks in a passionate frenzy of reading and learning. I scarcely left my room, I ate my meals standing up so as not to waste time, I studied unceasingly, without a break, almost without sleep. I was like that prince in the Oriental fairy tale who, removing seal after seal from the doors of locked chambers, finds more and more jewels and precious stones piled in each room and makes his
the top discovered a little lake in the green spaces just outside town. As a coast-dwelling northerner, I loved to swim, and there on the tower, from which even the dappled meadows looked like shimmering pools of green water, an irresistible longing to throw myself into that beloved element again suddenly overcame me like a gust of wind blowing from my home. No sooner had I made my way to the swimming pool after lunch and begun splashing about in the water than my body began to feel at ease
not be better for this last hour to bring full clarity between us? So tell me, why do you want to leave? Are you angry with me for that thoughtless insult?” I made a gesture of denial. How terrible to think that he, the man betrayed, the man deceived, was still trying to take the blame on himself ! “Have I done you some other injury, consciously or unconsciously? I know I am sometimes rather strange. And I have irritated and tormented you against my own will. I have never thanked you enough
in a disreputable bar in Berlin at midnight with a whole gang of such fellows; a stout, red-cheeked sergeant took down the trembling man’s name and position with the scornful, superior smile of a subaltern suddenly able to put on airs in front of an intellectual, graciously indicating at last that this time he was being let off with a caution, but henceforward his name would be on a certain list. And as a man who has sat too long in bars that smell of liquor finds its odour clinging at last to