The latest novella available to English-speaking readers, Journey Into the Past—found among Zweig’s papers after his death and now published by New York Review Books Classics in a masterly translation by Andrea Bell and with an introduction by André Aciman—is no exception. This dissection of an unconsummated love affair is bleakly affecting, its nuanced sadness leavened by a belief in an eternal, idealized romantic love that contemporary readers might justifiably envy, just as Zweig envied his father’s faith in the inevitability of world peace.
I’m intrigued to see what Aciman made of this book. He knows a thing or two about love affairs, consummated and otherwise.
AA: One cannot “explain” or “justify” sexual attraction. To use a cliché: it is what it is. Part of the creative process seeks to provide something that comes close to being an answer to the question: Why am I attracted? Why do I crave? Why do I want? Writing is a way not even of providing answers, but of beginning the process that may ultimately lead to a repetition of the situation when desire first sprouted, a way of going back to the “source.”