Glimpses of characters

Zweig is still slipping elusively through the pages of his own autobiography. His sketches of his famous friends are all fascinating, and vividly drawn, and in describing them he is often forced to give away details of his own life – mainly in terms of his travels.

But I’ve decided I like this kind of narration after all. The First World War has just broken out, and for a few pages you lose all sight of the individual as the impact of the war sets in. Reading The World of Yesterday is the equivalent of watching long single-shot pans across a variety of cityscapes: sometimes the camera takes in the details of some individual drama – like in the terribly funny scene where Zweig inadvertently starts killing off various famous actors by writing plays for them – and sometimes it just lets the overall picture wash over you.

In other news, Tracey Emin’s threat to leave the country if the 50p tax is passed is the best argument I’ve heard yet in its favour.

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