Confused and heartbroken, he accepts her situation. When they learn about Lisa's actions, her mother and stepfather demand to know why she didn't accept the proposal. Years later, Lisa is estranged from her parents and works in Vienna as a dress model. Every night she waits outside Stefan's window, hoping to be noticed. One night he notices her, and although he does not recognize her, he finds himself strangely drawn to her.
They go on a long, romantic date that ends with them making love. Soon after, Stefan leaves for a concert in Milan, promising to contact her soon, but he never does. Lisa eventually gives birth to their child, never trying to contact Stefan, wanting to be the "one woman you had known who asked you for nothing". Ten years later, Lisa is now married to an older man named Johann Marcel Journet who knows about her past love for Stefan, for whom she named their son. One day while at the opera, Lisa sees Stefan, who is no longer a top-billed musician and rarely performs.
Feeling uneasy, she leaves during the performance. He happens to leave at the same time, and so they meet while she is waiting for her carriage. Stefan does not remember her, but once again is oddly drawn to her. Lisa is still uncomfortable with this, not wanting to anger her husband, and when her carriage arrives, she is met by a clearly vexed Johann.
A few nights later and against her husband's wishes, Lisa travels to Stefan's apartment, and he is delighted to see her. Despite a seemingly illuminating conversation about Stefan's past life and his motivations for giving up music, Stefan still does not recognize who Lisa really is. Distraught and realizing that Stefan never felt any love for her at all, Lisa leaves. On her way out she meets the servant and the two exchange a long glance. Sometime later, after her son dies of typhus , Lisa is taken to a hospital and is gravely ill herself.
She writes a letter to Stefan explaining her life, her son, and her feelings toward him; the letter that narrates the whole film. After Lisa dies, the letter is sent to Stefan, along with a card from the hospital staff announcing her death. In shock, Stefan thinks back to the three times they met and he failed to recognize her. The servant nods and writes down her full name, Lisa Berndle, on a piece of paper. Still in shock, Stefan leaves his building and sees the ghostly image of a teenage Lisa open the door for him, the same way she once did when he first noticed her all those years ago.
Outside, a carriage waits to take him to meet a dueling opponent, Lisa's husband, Johann. Finally intending to take responsibility for his actions, Stefan decides to engage in the duel. The film was adapted from the original Stefan Zweig novella by screenwriter Howard Koch. The film is mostly faithful to the book, though featuring minor divergences. The male protagonist in the book is simply referred to once as 'R', and is a novelist rather than a musician. The film renames him Stefan Brand referencing Zweig, who also lends his name to the protagonist's infant son, also unnamed in the original source material.
Fernand, a relative of Lisa's mother and eventual husband, is turned into the completely unrelated "Mr. Kastner", with the family moving to Linz rather than Innsbruck. John, the servant, retains his name, but in the film, he is mute. The novel's sexual content is quite implicit, but because of censorship, the movie adaptation further dims it.
In the book, the "unknown woman" spends three nights with the writer rather than one before his departure. She only meets him one more time, many years later, at the opera, at which she promptly loses her present lover in favor of spending a fourth night with the writer. At the conclusion of this, she is humiliated when he mistakes her for a prostitute, and rushes off, never to see him again. The movie adaptation splits these into two separate encounters first meeting him at the opera, and then rushing off humiliated from his house , and ignores another sexual encounter.
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Further divergences include a more prolonged "first encounter" between the two lovers taking them through stagecoaches, fairs and ball rooms rather than simply cutting to the long-waited sexual encounter , revealing the disease that kills Stefan Jr. At the start of the novel, Brand has just turned 41 and forgotten about his birthday. This is significant because the absence of white roses confirms Lisa's death at the time of reading.
The most significant divergence is a structural change: there is no duel in the original story, nor is there a character such as Johann. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews.
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To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Letter from an Unknown Woman and Other Stories , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Sep 16, Dia rated it it was amazing Shelves: read-in , loved-it , the-best , reread-needed , best , favorite-author , little-to-no-sex , shorties , m-f , painful-story. My aunt recommended to me a book she adores, Burning Secret and I was immediately hooked by his writing style.
She knew I read mostly romance and even if his work is SO far from what I usually enjoy, well she had a feeling I might be into this too. What can I say about Stefan Zweig 's work? How can I describe best my feelings while reading his stories? It's very hard to explain in wor 5 huge stars for such emotional and heartbreaking short stories It's been years since I discovered Stefan Zweig. It's very hard to explain in words the way he ripped my heart and crushed it into a million pieces. Sad and heartbreaking doesn't even cover it. I might go with soul wrenching and even this word wouldn't be enough.
Letter from an Unknown Woman is by far my favorite novel by Stefan Zweig. I would advise people to read it only if they think they can manage such painful stories. I didn't know what I was getting myself into.
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I'd still like to reread this someday but only while being in a good mood and making sure I wouldn't get my heart bleeding again. As if I could stop it. In conclusion: amazing writing style! One of the best classic I've ever read. Jul 22, Steven Godin rated it it was amazing Shelves: short-stories , austria. Exceptionally good short stories. I turned to this after reading his brilliant novel Beware of Pity and the equally good Chess Story.
For me, Zweig is on a level here like that of de maupassant or chekhov when it comes to writing short fiction. He also reminded me of another Austrian, Arthur Schnitzler, with his intuitive use of psychological detail within his narrative. Four stories are included, which doesn't seem much, but it's certainly a case of quality over quantity.
All are captivating an Exceptionally good short stories. All are captivating and expertly crafted, and told with an unwaveringly strong feeling towards his characters. The title story is wonderfully lyrical and heart-rending, probably my favourite. But the other three still struck me as being very good.
Zweig's prose is deftly acute and just so readable. On finishing, I wanted to read again. Jun 22, Katie Lumsden rated it really liked it. I really enjoyed this - a tender, moving and so well written short story collection, looking at unrequited love, obsession and changes in lives over time. I'd highly recommend. View 1 comment. Sep 19, Sunny rated it it was amazing Shelves: german-literature.
I have to admit that Zweig is fast becoming one of my all-time great writers. This book comprises 4 stories and 3 of them were amazing - 2 in particular. The first one which the book is named after is about a letter that a 40 something year old writer received from a woman that he barely recognises but this woman has loved him her entire life. The letter is a confession of the lifelong I have to admit that Zweig is fast becoming one of my all-time great writers.
The letter is a confession of the lifelong love and obsession she had for him. It sounds simple but the story that wraps around this letter is heart breaking and beautiful at the same time. The other story that really got me was about an old time actor that is well past his sell-by date who gets completely ignored in the local village and pub that he frequents except one day when a younger woman turns up and recognises him. Zweig is able to pull your heart strings unlike many writers. He is a special writer undoubtedly. These four stories all center on first love.
In each, it produces a sort of melancholy. The title story is indeed, almost entirely a letter recounting a love that began at age The love becomes almost an obsession and lasts a lifetime, though the love is unrequited.
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The second, A Story told in Twilight , begins and ends in youth. The story itself covers just a few nights. The third, A Debt Paid Late is probably my favorite. This involves a letter to a childhood friend recounting a love they bo These four stories all center on first love. This involves a letter to a childhood friend recounting a love they both had for an actor. The final story, Forgotten Dreams is very short. The youthful love isn't clear and one must read between the lines, but it is my impression. Stefan Zweig's prose is a delight to read. Authors most certainly work at their craft, and work hard.
We rarely read first drafts. To me, this makes me appreciate good prose even more. Short stories are usually about characterization and these stories are no exception. I haven't had a lot of good reads lately, and this was a refreshing change. I have some others by Zweig I hope to get to some day. This is not as good as his Chess Story , but perhaps only because it is so entirely different from that offering.
Still, this sits just at the line between 4- and 5-stars, but I did enjoy it enough to bump it up. Sep 27, Raghdaa Morad rated it it was amazing Shelves: my-favorites , owned , classic. Jul 28, Anna rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction , shortstories , austrian-lit. As is typical, the first story is titular, longest, and best. The final one, by contrast, is the shortest and the least effective. The former three tales are neatly united by the theme of how romantic infatuation creates dangers for women.
Zweig treats this topic with delicacy and sympathy, not judging women for their desires and deftly showing the gendered double standards of behaviour. The cover is simple but appealing. View all 3 comments. May 23, Megan Davis rated it really liked it.
I loved these stories. They were my introduction to Zweig. I picked the book up by chance at the library, and quickly became delighted. It left such an impression on me. I can't really explain to you what it felt like reading that, as a girl who had had similar dreams about one person, and only one person, for nearly two decades. I also really enjoyed "The Debt Paid Late" for similar reasons. All of the stor I loved these stories.
All of the stories border on melodrama, but I think that that was the style of the era. It didn't bother me, because I tend to gravitate toward stories of this type. Missed opportunities, long lost loves, forgotten friends, and strangers who are not so strange after all. I will definitely be reading more Zweig. Nov 21, Vishy rated it it was amazing.
I read my first Stefan Zweig book last year. It was called 'A Game of Chess and other stories'. I fell in love with it - with the stories and with Zweig's prose. The first three are the length of a long short story or a short novella - somewhere between forty and fifty pages. The last one i I read my first Stefan Zweig book last year. The last one is a short story. In the title story 'Letter from an Unknown Woman', a writer comes home after a walk and when he checks his mail, he finds a letter written in a woman's handwriting.
There is no name on it and no sender's address. He takes it out and reads it. In that letter a woman tells the writer that she loves him, has always loved him from the time she was a girl, describes how they have met many times and how he didn't recognize her each time. She then describes the details of her life and their interactions across the years. It is a beautiful, poignant story. I loved this passage from the story very much.
Only lonely children can keep a passion entirely to themselves; others talk about their feelings in company, wear them away in intimacy with friends, they have heard and read a great deal about love, and know that it is a common fate. They play with it as if it were a toy, they show it off like boys smoking their first cigarette. But as for me, I had no one I could take into my confidence, I was not taught or warned by anyone, I was inexperienced and naive; I flung myself into my fate as if into an abyss. Everything growing and emerging in me knew of nothing but you, the dream of you was my familiar friend.
They have a passionate time together. The next day at breakfast time, all the women in the house are there in the dining room and everything is quiet like it has always been. The boy tries to find out which of these women he met in the previous evening. He devises ways to discover that.
And then he makes a surprising discovery. And then he does something silly, like all love-smitten people do, and makes another shattering discovery which breaks his heart. I won't tell you more. You have to read the story to find out what happened. I loved this passage from the story. It showcases the beautiful, evocative descriptions that Stefan Zweig frequently gives. That will be a wonderful hour, for there is no lovelier sight than the slow fading of sunset colour into shadow, to be followed by darkness rising from the ground below, until finally its black tide engulfs the walls, carrying us away into its obscurity.
If we sit opposite one another, looking at each other without a word, it will seem at that hour, as if our familiar faces in the shadow were older and stranger and farther away, as if we had never known them like that, and each of us was seeing the other across a wide space and over many years. Her plan is to stay there for two weeks, walk in the meadow, read a book, not talk to anyone and spend time in tranquility.
But there she meets a man whom she recognizes from her childhood. What happens after that is the rest of the story. The whole story is in the form of a letter that this woman writes to her friend, after the events happened. The fourth story, 'Forgotten Dreams', is about two people, a woman and a man, who meet years later and remember their attraction for each other during their younger days, and talk about what has happened in their lives and what might have been.
I loved this passage from this story. The first three seemed to have some kind of theme in common - there is a question of identity in each of them. In the first, the identity of the narrator is never discovered though the writer tries to, in the second the identity of the woman is a big surprise, and in the third one, the discovery of the identity of the man brings back old memories. The book is vintage Zweig, with beautiful, flowing prose, beautiful passages and a perfect balance between story-telling and aesthetic beauty.
I loved it. I can't wait to read my next Zweig story now. What do you think about it? View all 4 comments. Oct 20, Ipsita rated it really liked it Shelves: austrian-literature. Light, nostalgic and poignant short stories regarding love as well as its enduring power.
You did not recognize me, neither then nor ever, you never recognized me. How can I describe to you, beloved, the disappointment of that moment? That was the first time I suffered it, the disappoi Light, nostalgic and poignant short stories regarding love as well as its enduring power. That was the first time I suffered it, the disappointment of going unrecognized by you.
I have lived with it all my life, I am dying with it, and still you do not recognize me. How can I make you understand my disappointment? He sensed the presence of death, he sensed the presence of undying love: something broke open inside him, and he thought of the invisible woman, incorporeal and passionate, as one might think of distant music. Is that what suddenly makes it so dim in our room? Only the dormer windows opposite still smile with a faint glow, and the sky above the roof ridge is veiled by golden mist. If we sit opposite one another, looking at each other without a word, it will seem, at that hour, as if our familiar faces in the shadows were older and stranger and farther away, as if we had never known them like that, and each of us was now seeing the other across a wide space and over many years.
You want me to tell you a story. But not about me, for our life in these big cities is short of experience, or so it seems to us, because we do not yet know what is really our own in them. However, I will tell you a story fit for this hour that really loves only silence, and I would wish it to have something about it of the warm, soft, flowing twilight now hovering mistily outside our windows. Are you smiling because I make up strange stories for people whom I knew fleetingly, dream of whole destinies for them, and then calmly let them slip back into their lives and their own world? Or are you sad for that boy who rejected love and found himself all at once cast out of the garden of his sweet dream for ever?
But stories told in the evening all tread the gentle path of melancholy. Twilight falls with its veils, the sorrow that rests in the evening is a starless vault above them, darkness seeps into their blood, and all the bright, colourful words in them have as full and heavy a sound as if they came from our inmost hearts. The thing that I love about these two short stories in this book is the way the author organize the stories, and the way he told them with such deep sympathy and emotions.
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I don't know about his other stories, but through these two, I can tell that he's a man that really has a gift for understanding women and their nature in love : I love how the author just let the characters speak for themselves, telling the stories from the first person perspective, which makes the stories more real, helping The thing that I love about these two short stories in this book is the way the author organize the stories, and the way he told them with such deep sympathy and emotions.
I don't know about his other stories, but through these two, I can tell that he's a man that really has a gift for understanding women and their nature in love : I love how the author just let the characters speak for themselves, telling the stories from the first person perspective, which makes the stories more real, helping readers to indulge in the stories and feel for the characters' situations. The thing that I hate most about reading a piece of literature work is that it features an overabundance of metaphors and high level of literature that most of the time I cannot understand what they mean , which helps leverage the stories more.
As a romance reader, somehow I found myself devour the second story, "24 hours in a woman's life" more than the first romance story, "A letter from an unknown woman" :D May 06, Bingjun rated it it was amazing Shelves: read. Just finished the first story and it worths a five-star. The story is deeply sad and pathetic.
Reminds me of some pathetic old days. The pain was so real and it lasts for years.