By Stefan Zweig
Translated by Anthea Bell
A bourgeois housewife's affair is discovered, and a blackmailer turns her comfortable life into a nightmare of apprehension
Finding her comfortable bourgeois existence as wife and mother tedious after eight years of marriage, Irene Wagner brings a little excitement into it by starting an affair with a rising young pianist. Her lover's former mistress begins blackmailing her, threatening to give her secret away to her husband, meanwhile her husband seems to offer her numerous opportunities to confess and be forgiven. Irene is soon in the grip of agonizing fear. Written in the spring of 1913, and first published in 1920, this novella is one of Stefan Zweig's most powerful studies of a woman's mind and emotions.
Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was born in Vienna, into a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family. He studied in Berlin and Vienna and was first known as a poet and translator, then as a biographer. Zweig travelled widely, living in Salzburg between the wars, and was an international bestseller with a string of hugely popular novellas including Letter from an Unknown Woman, Amok and Fear.
In 1934, with the rise of Nazism, he moved to London, where he wrote his only novel Beware of Pity. He later moved on to Bath, taking British citizenship after the outbreak of the Second World War. With the fall of France in 1940 Zweig left Britain for New York, before settling in Brazil, where in 1942 he and his wife were found dead in an apparent double suicide.