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Publisher's Summary

In the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a young cavalry officer is invited to a dance at the home of a rich landowner.

There - with a small act of attempted charity - he commits a simple faux pas. But from this seemingly insignificant blunder comes a tale of catastrophe arising from kindness and of honour poisoned by self-regard.

Beware of Pity has all the intensity and the formidable sense of torment and of character of the very best of Zweig's work. Definitive translation by the award-winning Anthea Bell.

©1976 Atrium Press, 2011 Anthea Bell (P)2017 Ukemi Productions Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Zweig’s fictional masterpiece." ( Guardian)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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One of my favorite authors

Along with Alexander Lernet-Holenia and Márai Sàndor, Stefan Zweig is a jewel in the literary crown of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Beware of Pity is a period piece, an all too brief glimpse at a world forever lost.

It is a story which may seem quaint in our time now that honor, manners, and human decency are thin on the ground. But it fascinates for all that.

Zweig is often dismissed by the superficial reader as “sentimental.” Yes, he can be. He was, after all, a Viennese very much of his time.

But such a reading is shallow and simplistic. To dismiss Zweig with a supercilious sniff is to miss not only a visit to his evocative fictional world, but to his deep understanding of character and conflict.

I love his work all the more as I get older, and enjoy returning to his fictional Wien. He is an author with whom I never fail to lose myself utterly.

This reading is simply extraordinary. With so many clueless narrators slaughtering foreign languages with the most grotesque pronunciation, Boulton’s performance is glorious, even musical, as befits the author himself. I enjoyed every minute.

I hope someone will bring us another of Zweig’s extraordinary novels, The Post Office Girl.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Masterpiece that is also extremely enjoyable

If you could sum up Beware of Pity in three words, what would they be?

Extremely enjoyable masterpiece

Have you listened to any of Nicholas Boulton’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This is the first time I listened and his performance is excellent

Who was the most memorable character of Beware of Pity and why?

The doctor, because he gives off an amazing amount of philosophy, advice, background history, opinion and is a very colorful character in everyday life as well.

Any additional comments?

The reading of this book could not have done a better job, it was excellent. There are so many layers to this story and different references to pity. Besides pity to the girl Edit these is also pity elicited to the lieutenant. In addition, the father of Edit is in need of pity. There are substories within the story which are of high interest as well. The entire story is packed with meaning and submeaning. In addition the mood is set so well that the reader can feel the mood of that period in Vienna and the mindset of a soldier and the atmosphere of the times. Zweig is a master at conveying mood and bringing the reader into his world. The writing is very erudite and there is philosophy at every corner. On top of all that, the story comes off anything but dry and instead is immensely entertaining. This is a classic for all time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Recommended by Jeffrey Archer

In Oxford Union Discussion someone asked Jeffrey Archer which author he really admired and he mentioned this one.

If it's good enough for Mr.Archer it is fantastic for me.

I must comment on the Narrator. He added the passion and drama to the story, so much, that I almost came close to tears at times.

truly remarkable piece of writing. I am glad I found it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Can’t fault the writing, but long and boring

The writing is good, but to me, tedious. I suppose that it could be thought provoking. It is definitely, not a “feel good” book; I didn’t connect with any of the characters and it left me feeling empty.

Do consider the time frame in which it was written. The story is set in 1914 and published in 1939, falling between the World Wars; written by a Jew and published in German shortly before the start of World War II. Notably, in 1942, the author and his wife committed suicide in Brazil.

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You beautiful, nervous wreck!

Zweig's story is a beautiful one, yet one i cannot relate to.


Why then do I stil like this book?
It tells the story of a young officer in an austrian cavallery regiment located in Hungary, and his ever more complicated relations with the family " Von Kékesfalva", and subsequently his many and sometimes almost childish and desperate ways of trying to escape these same complications. I hate to spoil a good plot, so I will leave it at that.
I guess much of what denies this book greatness in my eyes, it really a sign of greatness in itself, as it is the frustration and anger I feel towards the story's main character that left me with compicated feelings about the work.
But even when I was frustrated with the plot of the story, other parts of the book would always hold me, and keep me from stopping to listen.
It was, among other things, the allure of the fascinating and mysterious culture and daily life of the Austro-Hungarian empire. I had first listened to The World of Yesterday by Zweig, and wanted to hear all I could about this part of european history that I knew so little of. Zweig truly brought me enjoyment through this work, and it is one that I am sure to revisit.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • George
  • 05-19-18

Pity the listener.

It just goes on and on and on and on and on, the whole thing was just a self centered dirge.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-10-18

Brilliant and Moving

A very powerful book - perhaps the most moving and captivating book I have ever read - Beware of Pity explores a complex moral dilemma. It simultaneously gives a glimpse into the lost world of Austria-Hungary and the torments of unrequited desire.

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  • Alma Crawford
  • 06-28-17

Brilliant tangle of class, disability, and sex.

Set in an idealized Hapsburg Austria, characters lack the emotional maturitu/dexterity to manage attraction, disappointment, disparity, or constraint leading to disaster. I read it as an allegory alongside "The World of Yesterday."