, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 109-122
Date: 17 Aug 2010

The Self as the “Mittelpunkt”, the World as the “Hauptperson”. The “Super-Personal” Autobiography of Stefan Zweig

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Abstract

Die Welt von Gestern, Stefan Zweig’s posthumous autobiography, presents two particularities in its semantic and pragmatic aspects. On the one hand, the semantic core of the text is not the “I” of the author, narrator and main character, as Philippe Lejeune’s classic definition prescribes, but the “world” in which he lives. This is the reason why some critics have described it either as an “impersonal” or as a “super-personal” autobiography. On the other hand, the “world” Zweig projects in the text is quite different from that same world described by historians, so there is a lack of correspondence between the signs and their designata, that is to say, a problem of referentiality. This is the reason why it can thus be considered a very “personal” autobiography. There are two apparent contradictions: how can an autobiography be “super-personal”?, and how can it be considered “super-personal” in the narrative of the “I”, and, at the same time, very “personal” in the description of the “world”? The contradictions are not so if we realise that there is a connection between the “I” and the “world”, because it is not possible to explain the first without the latter, if we assume that the identity of certain individuals is constructed more with their impersonal relations (objects, ideas, work) than with their interpersonal relations. The construction of the “world” is the way to Zweig to reveal his personal “I”.