Stefan Zweig posthumously receives Brazil′s highest award for foreigners | Books | DW | 19.12.2017
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Stefan Zweig posthumously receives Brazil's highest award for foreigners

The Austrian author has received the National Order of the Southern Cross. A hillside house in Petropolis was Zweig's final home and workplace after he fled Austria — and where he eventually took his life.

The Casa Stefan Zweig announced on Monday that Austrian Ambassador Irene Giner-Reichl had accepted Brazil's highest award for foreign citizens, the National Order of the Southern Cross (ONCS), from Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes on behalf of the deceased Austrian author.

The Casa Stefan Zweig, a museum in the city of Petropolis, was the final home of the exiled author until his death in 1942.

Persecuted by the National Socialists, Stefan Zweig fled Austria in 1934 via Britain, the US, Argentina and Paraguay, before finally arriving in Brazil in 1940. There he settled with his wife Lotte in Petropolis some 68 kilometers (42 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro. In his hillside house he wrote his world famous novella "The Royal Game."

The museum and small memorial site opened in 2012. According to the head of the Casa Stefan Zweig, Kristina Michahelles, the house's "main objective is to make younger generations aware of the Austrian author's humanist and pacifist thinking, his body of work and his life."

Casa Stefan Zweig (Manfred Grietens)

The Casa Zweig is now a museum dedicated to the Austrian author

Zweig's gratitude towards Brazil

The house witnessed a tragic event: In the night of February 22-23,1942, Zweig and his wife Lotte committed suicide by overdosing on painkillers. In his suicide note, the author stated that he saw it as his duty "to give heartfelt thanks to this wonderful country Brazil that has been so hospitable to me and my work." The loss of Zweig's former life in Europe and desperation about the triumph of the Nazis are seen as the likely reason for his suicide.

He completed his monumental memoir "The World of Yesterday," about the twilight of the golden Habsburg era of culture at the start of the 20th century, the day before he took his life.

Read more: 'Farewell to Europe' looks back on the life of exiled writer Stefan Zweig

Zweig, born in 1881 in Vienna, became one of the most popular and acclaimed German-language authors in the 1920s after his breakthrough with the 1922 novella "Amok." His numerous thoroughly researched and meticulousl written portraits of historical figues such as writers Honore Balzac, Charles Dickens, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky and French Revolution queen Marie Antoinette, also earned him fame. These portraits also came to serve as important documents describing the eras during which these artists lived.

When anti-German sentiment was running high in the English-language world, his works were published in translation without his consent under the pseudonym "Stephen Branch" (a literal translation of his real name).

Filmstill Vor der Morgenröte (X Verleih)

In 2016 a new biopic about Zweig's life in exile, entitled 'Farewell to Europe,' movie theaters. Above, Josef Hader plays Zweig in the film.

High-ranking laureates

The National Order of the Southern Cross was introduced in 1822 by Brazilian Emperor Pedro I under a previous title, the Imperial Order of the Cross. While the Imperial order could be bestowed on Brazilian civilians and foreigners alike, the National Order is reserved for non-nationals.

Over the course of time, kings, presidents and politicians have been honored by the ONCS, among them Queen Elizabeth II, former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Che Guevara. A high-ranking jury consisting of Brazil's president, foreign minister and other political representatives decide on the laureates.

ka/bb/jt (dpa/Casa Zweig)/ad, cmb

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