This is a bleak assertion, particularly when considered in the light of contemporary potentialities, such as the clash between the forces of intransigent reaction and those of inelastic neo-puritanical progressivism, each in its way tending toward fanaticism and the false certainty of the “premature synthesis”, each therefore requiring caution. I would march for neither. The poignancy of Zweig’s allusion to the fate of Erasmus’ spirit of tolerance and moderation bears with it the weight of a terrible indictment, when we consider the manner in which all that he, the author, held dear, including life itself, was extinguished by Nazism.
The world would gain much were the spirit of Erasmus to walk abroad amongst us in this age of populist frenzy, fecklessness and phoney hope. That of Zweig would be of comparable benefit.
On reading George Clare’s moving work “Last Waltz in Vienna”, I find myself introduced to the Yiddish term “tahm”, which denotes “the ability to change without apparent effort the commonplace into the superb”, a beautiful notion, I think, deployed by the author with reference to his maternal grandmother, Adele Immerdauer.