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Richard Friedenthal tells a most extraordinary story:


The harrowing perils of how the Balzac book came to be published


Richard FriedenthalRichard Friedenthal's story is very interesting and complex to tell:  The Jewish German writer Stefan Zweig was a good friend of Jasper's parents (William and Dorothy Rose), and visited them often in London.  Zweig wrote the introduction to William Rose’s book Rainer Maria Rilke, Aspects of his Mind and Poetry in 1938. As the Second World War was starting, Zweig wrote a biography of the French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac, but the manuscripts were piecemeal and scattered in different geographic locations.  As war was declared, Zweig fled Europe leaving the manuscripts behind, and died by suicide in 1942 in Brazil.  Zweig’s friend Friedenthal tracked down the manuscripts, put them together under perilous conditions and published the book Balzac in German in 1945. William and Dorothy Rose together translated the book from German to English in 1946.


City of Bath bombed by the Germans in April 1942


Friedenthal writes about the extraordinary story at the very end of the Balzac book. There were air raids by the German Luftwaffe on the British city of Bath during the Second World War where he was residing. The city was bombed by the German air force in April 1942 as part what came to be called the "Baedeker raids," in which targets were chosen for destruction based on their cultural and historical significance rather than their strategic or military value.  Here is what he wrote:


The ceiling collapsed and buried the notes in rubble.


Perhaps I may be permitted to add a word or two about the outward circumstances under which this book [Balzac]was produced. There were difficulties to contend with.  The material was dispersed in various places, some of it in London, some in Bath, some deposited for safety at various banks.  Whereas Stefan Zweig had been able to work at his manuscript during the early months of the war in comparative though unreal quiet, the period when I was engaged in its revision was one when the reality of the world conflagration had come very close indeed to the shores of England.  It was a reality which compelled me to change my place of residence three times, having been bombed out on each occasion.  Twice the working copy of the manuscript was literally tom out of my hands and flung across the room.  The ceiling collapsed and buried the notes in rubble. Fragments of glass splinters and grains of plaster are still embedded in the pages.  Even the front hall of Zweig's house in Bath, usually so quiet, was not spared its showers of splinters during one of the notorious "Baedeker raids." One bomb, which landed just in front of the wall of his study, luckily turned out to be a dud.  The British Museum, to which I had recourse from time to time and which kept its hospitable North Library open throughout the war in such a praiseworthy manner, was likewise damaged in air raids. My work was therefore carried on, to employ a typical English understatement, under conditions that were not wholly normal.  These experiences are mentioned here for no personal reasons, however, but merely as a documentary record.


This book, at least, was saved from the sinister forces...


This book, at least, was saved from the sinister forces which had exiled Stefan Zweig from his homeland and driven him to his death. It is not altogether what its author intended it to be, but I believe I can say with a clear conscience that it does form a worthy conclusion to his life's work. And in these times, when the slightest ray of hope means so much, it seems to me an auspicious omen that this last posthumous work of a good European and citizen of the world can now start on its journey unhindered and find its way to his friends in every country who remained loyal to him during the long years of spiritual blackout.

London, December 1945


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