The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig, 1930s published posthumously

Rebecca; 3 May 2020

Like many things I have read these last few weeks in the lock down this book seemed very relevant to the present situation. Set in early 1930s Austria citizens were hemmed in by rules, regulations, officialdom, Police, prying eyes, disapproval and and most of all - poverty. There was no way for them to express themselves, to use their skills and talents.

Bound to hated jobs that paid scarcely enough to survive, our two main characters are daily tormented, made worse by the lack of a fellow soul who understands their frustration at the madness and injustice of it all. Their families, people around them, seem to buy the system or at least to tolerate it. They are surrounded by the thought police, if they express different views the condemnation is palpable.

“...that idiot puppet the government, which doesn’t breathe and isn’t alive and doesn’t want to know anything, the stupidest thing people have ever invented, something that crushes people”

Ferdinand speaking, p232

“ … I don’t have a trace of moral scruple, when it comes to the state I feel completely free. Its committed such terrible crimes against us all, against our generation, that we have a right to anything … Commandeering, that's the word they used during the war, or expropriating – Versailles called it reclamation. Who taught us how to cheat if not the state – how else would we know that money saved up by three generations could become worthless in a mere two weeks, that families could be swindled out of pastures, houses, and fields that had been theirs for a hundred years … We have an excellent case against the state, by God, we'll win in every court. It can never pay off its terrible debt, never give back what it took from us. Once there might have been a reason to have some qualms, back when the state was a good custodian, thrifty, decent, proper. Now that its behaved like a hoodlum, we have the right to be hoodlums too”

Zweiss (who was forced to leave German in the 1930s) speaking through Ferdinand p235