Monday, September 12, 2016

Marie Antoinette - Stefan Zweig

At the rate I'm going, the blanks in my knowledge of the 18th century will most likely be amended before Christmas! (Previously read : Laestadius Larsson's 'Pottungen' and 'Räfvhonan')

Zweig's portrayal of the unfortunate rococo queen dates from 1932 and indeed tells you almost as much about Zweig's early 20th century as it does about the late 18th. 
For instance, according to Zweig, the fate of France's last royal family pretty much boils down to Louis XVIs initial sexual impotence and his bland personality. These, you see, rendered him incapable of properly harnessing his fierce, lusty teenage bride, so desperately in need of male domination...

Zweig is no brilliant historian, notwithstanding any amount of research he undoubtedly conducted. He speculates about what might have been, states of mind, thoughts and fears - in short, things none of us can possibly have any knowledge whatsoever about - and he fearlessly presents his musings as near-truths. He peremptorily passes judgement on people (The King and Mirabeau he holds in the greatest contempt. And however patriotic I may be, his idolisation of the Queen's Swedish lover Axel von Fersen makes me ill at ease.)

In all, this was a detailed but conventional (and irritating!) portrait of a person who remains quite a mystery.


  1. Hej Ingela! Tack för att du läst och recenserat Pottungen och Räfvhonan. Jag läste Zweigs biografi när jag var 10 (liten och nördig) och var helt uppslukad av Marie Antoinette. Så här i vuxen ålder vill jag varmt rekommendera Antonia Frasers biografi om henne, om du inte redan läst den. Den är mycket intressant och mer uppdaterad och researchad än Zweigs. Väldigt tjock, men lättläst. Allt gott! /Anna Laestadius Larsson