I should have known. It was there in the title. It said beware. But I had to be headstrong. I had to go my own way and read Beware of Pity.
Well, the truth be told, I didn’t actually read Beware of Pity. That might sound like an admission unworthy of a writer, but I did try. Perhaps Zweig’s longest fiction work is much more enthralling in the original German. And if I had been fluent in German maybe I would be writing a review of the book like that of Alfred Hickling: “Zweig constructs a devastating account of what happens when pity is misconstrued as love and brilliantly relays the catastrophic effects of arousing unwanted passion.” Or maybe I might have shared Salman Rushdie’s sentiment after reading Beware of Pity: “It’s good to have Zweig back.”
I’m not sure where Zweig went, but a reader of a translation will always have difficulty finding the author’s intended meaning. You’re forced to come at the work and the author’s mind through the interpretation of others. Translators, editors, and everyone in between—there could be a whole room of people adding their take to the story. Sadly there’s no escaping it. There’s always some of the author’s art that gets lost in translation.
But maybe that’s not what happened with me. Maybe, like so many things, the timing just wasn’t right. Pity. I liked the cover.