Zeitschrift für deutsch - jüdische Literatur und Kulturgeschichte (Journal of German - Jewish Literature and Culture History)
Ed. by Pollock, Benjamin / Weidner, Daniel / Wiese, Christian
The World of Yesterday versus The Turning Point: Art and the Politics of Recollection in the Autobiographical Narratives of Stefan Zweig and Klaus Mann
This article revisits the world-views of Stefan Zweig and Klaus Mann by analyzing the diverse ways in which they shaped their literary careers as autobiographers. Particular focus is given to the crises they experienced while composing their respective autobiographical narratives, both published in 1942. Our re-evaluation of their complex discussions on literature and art reveals two distinctive approaches to the relationship between aesthetics and politics, as well as two alternative concepts of authorial autonomy within society. Simultaneously, we argue that in spite of their different approaches to political involvement, both authors shared a basic understanding of art as an enclave of humanistic existence at a time of oppressive political circumstances. However, their attitudes toward the autonomy of the artist under fascism differed greatly. This is demonstrated mainly through their contrasting portrayals of Richard Strauss, who appears in both autobiographies as an emblematic genius composer.