Beware of Pity

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"Beware of Pity is a novel which explores the complex hidden recesses of emotion. In 1913 a young second lieutenant discovers the terrible dangers of pity and eventually flees from them into the battlefield. His involvement begins with a faux pas: he had no idea the girl was lame when he asked to dance. Paying her an occasional afternoon call seemed to give him a new sense of purpose and he did not notice how imperceptibly bound up with tenderness his concern might be. The girl's face brightened, her father doted, the young man's self-esteem ...
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Beware of Pity

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Overview

"Beware of Pity is a novel which explores the complex hidden recesses of emotion. In 1913 a young second lieutenant discovers the terrible dangers of pity and eventually flees from them into the battlefield. His involvement begins with a faux pas: he had no idea the girl was lame when he asked to dance. Paying her an occasional afternoon call seemed to give him a new sense of purpose and he did not notice how imperceptibly bound up with tenderness his concern might be. The girl's face brightened, her father doted, the young man's self-esteem rose. But he was gradually to learn that pity, like morphia, is only at first a solace to the invalid and unless one knows the exact dosage, and when to stop, it can become a virulent poison." Beware of Pity is Stephan Zweig's only novel and is a devastatingly unindulgent realisation of the torment of the betrayal of both honour and love, set against the background of the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Beware of Pity, his first venture in longer fiction, is original and powerful work...Zweig has chronicled a hopeless and tragic relationship in a manner that so holds the reader as never to dispirit him, telling a story full of psychological pitfalls that only an experienced writer, and an experienced human being could dare to attempt...Zweig remains, after Beware of Pity, what he seemed to be—in his novelettes and biographies—before he wrote it: a brilliant writer." —The New York Times

"Admired by readers as diverse as Freud, Einstein, Toscanini, Thomas Mann and Herman Goering." —The New York Times

"Herr Zweig presents this story with considerable skill, with compelling force...It is a good story." —The New York Times

"What is so impressive about Beware of Pity is Zweig's ability to make us feel the violently shifting emotions of all his characters as if they were our own. Only a writer of great sensitivity could do this. His theme, or moral, which he does not obtrude on us in any clumsy way, is that impulsive pity for others is a dangerous emotion with embroils us in false situations, often with disastrous results." —Sunday Telegraph

"Beware of Pity is an utterly unsparing dissection of the corruptions of false pity...In stripping away the lies with which we disguise our true desires from ourselves, Zweig lays bare the larger lies of the age: it was, in fact, the perfect novel for that 'low, dishonest decade,' as Auden termed it." —The New York Sun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452255128
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/1984
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

STEPHAN ZWEIG (1881-1942) spent his youth studying philosophy and the history of literature in Vienna and belonged to a pan-European cultural circle that included Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss. 1n 1934, under National Socialism, Zweig fled Austria for England, where he authored several novels, short stories, and biographies. In 1941 Zweig and his second wife traveled to Brazil, where they both committed suicide. New York Review Books recently republished his novel, Chess Story, in Fall 2005.

JOAN ACOCELLA is a staff writer for The New Yorker and contributes regularly to the New York Review of Books. Her latest books is Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A DRAMATIC AND MOVING NOVEL

    THE BOOK IS VERY BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN. AND MOST WONDERFUL, IT'S MOVING AND DRAMATIC! IT'S THE TALE OF A SOLDIER WHO EXPERIENCES FOR THE FIRST TIME THE FEELING OF "TRUE PITY" FOR A YOUNG CRIPPLED WOMAN. HE REALIZES HOW THIS EMOTION MAKES HIM FEEL APPRECIATED BY THE GIRL AND HER FAMILY, AND CAUSES HIM TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT HIMSELF ... AND HAPPY! SO HE BECOMES ALMOST DRUNK ON HIS NEW FOUND FEELING OF PITY. BUT, IT LEADS HIM INTO A PACK OF LIES AND TROUBLES AND SOON BECOMES A TORMENT WHICH HE TRIES TO RUN FROM. THUS THE TITLE, "BEWARE OF PITY." IN THE END, HIS NEW FOUND FEELINGS OF PITY ALMOST DESTROY HIM.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2002

    A Psychological Nightmare

    Beware of Pity is a fascinating study of how a young leutenant in the Austrian Army obsesses on the emotion of pity. Zweig's detailed anaylisis of how the the young hero of the novel swings back and forth between pity for an invalid girl and her father and his awareness that he is being trapped in an ever complex web of emotions that he must escape or perish. The conclusion is something of a let down but until then the rest of the book is a tour de force that overwhelms the reader page after page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2001

    Remarkable Book

    This book will leave you overwhelmed by it's grace and by the author's brilliant style and sensibility. Be prepared to be obsessed with Zweig's books.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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