A Story Told in Twilight
A new biography examines Stefan Zweig's final years in exile
THE CITY OF PETRÓPOLIS, in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro, is a suggestive place. It suggests, first of all, a benevolent nature, not the wild, threatening mass found elsewhere in Brazil, with its disease-bearing insects and its swarms of cannibalistic fish, but a carefully tended tropical nature of the kind found in the better Hawaiian or Balinese resorts. Here, nature means gentle streams lined with colorful, bushy impatiens. It means broad sheltering trees, and cute little monkeys playing in them. In Petrópolis, the weather is cooler, the breezes are softer, than in Rio de Janeiro, the heaving port below. Petrópolis is a harmonious place for people: Especially compared with the alternative that immediately presents itself—Rio, with its stifling traffic jams, its ugly cement apartment blocks, its drug barons, and its stray bullets—Petrópolis seems an ideal place to live. Here reigns an almost Bavarian tidiness, and a welfare and tranquillity virtually unknown elsewhere in Brazil.
Named for the bookish, self-effacing Emperor Pedro II, the city was built around his summer residence, a pink palace that is now the Imperial Museum. To walk through its rooms, to see the beautiful old furniture, to read about the marquises who once strolled through the gardens, is to enter a romantic world unimaginably far removed from the modern Brazil of the coast. Among the palms and bougainvillea, this place of great tall windows and wide polished floorboards, strikingly modest for an imperial residence, suggests the difference between what this country might have been and what it turned
REGISTERED USERS of bookforum.com and BOOKFORUM SUBSCRIBERS have access to this article, but must be logged in to view it. If you are not a registered user of bookforum.com, please create your free login here. If you are a subscriber, but haven’t activated your online account, please do so here.
SUBSCRIBE NOW for access to our online archives,* and receive the printed magazine for the discounted rate of $18 a year.**