BEWARE OF PITY
In the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a young cavalry officer is invited to a dance at the home of a rich landowner. There – with a small act of attempted charity – he commits a simple faux pas. But from this seemingly insignificant blunder comes a tale of catastrophe arising from kindness, and of honour poisoned by self-regard. Beware of Pity has all the intensity and the formidable sense of torment and of character, of the very best of Zweig’s work. Sensitively read by Nicholas Boulton. Definitive translation by the award-winning Anthea Bell.
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Nicholas Boulton’s performance of the only full-length novel of the great Stefan Zweig is impeccable, impassioned, and moving. Zweig’s storytelling here is old-fashioned, feeling almost Chekhovian at this remove. Set right before WWI, it’s a domestic tragedy told in the shadow of the looming destruction of a world and about a young Austrian cavalry officer trying to behave honorably to a rich but hysterically needy crippled girl with whom he is entangled. Boulton’s Lt. Hoffmiller is both an exotic to us and utterly familiar as a young man whose not-uncommon flaw is that he doesn’t understand his own emotions. Zweig’s achievement is to show what damage this can do on small stages or large; Boulton’s is to make us vibrate in sympathy with Hoffmiller. B.G.
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