Stefanie Zweig, 2008
September 19, 1932|
|Died||April 25, 2014
|Notable work(s)||Nowhere in Africa|
Stefanie Zweig (19 September 1932 – 25 April 2014) was a German Jewish writer and journalist. She is best known for her autobiographical novel, Nirgendwo in Afrika [Nowhere in Africa] (1995), which was a bestseller in Germany. The novel is based on her early life in Kenya, where her family had fled to escape persecution in Nazi Germany. The film adaptation of the novel (2002) won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Her books have sold more than seven million copies, and have been translated into fifteen languages.
Background and career in journalism
Zweig was born in Leobschütz, Germany (now Głubczyce, Poland). Her parents and she, being Jewish, fled to Africa in 1938 to escape persecution in Nazi Germany. They went from a prosperous urban life in Breslau (now Wrocław) to a poor farm in Kenya; Zweig was five years old. Paul Vitello writes in his obituary that, "The parents endured grinding work and bouts of depression. Stefanie, who had been withdrawn, blossomed into a venturesome, Swahili-speaking teenager." In 1941, the family received a postcard from Zweig's grandmother saying, "We are very excited, we are going to Poland tomorrow". Zweig's father explained that the grandmother was being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, which was operated by the German occupiers of Poland. She and many others were murdered there. Zweig attended an English boarding school while in Kenya, which was a British colony at the time. Zweig's father became a British soldier during World War II (1939–1945), when Britain was fighting Germany and the other Axis powers, but in 1947 he took his wife, daughter and infant son back to Germany.
The family's original home had been in Upper Silesia, which was in the east of prewar Germany. After the war, most of the region became part of Poland and the German residents had to move. Zweig's father had been offered a position as a judge in Frankfurt in western Germany. His appointment was part of the "denazification" of the judicial system in postwar Germany; only Germans without connections to the Nazi party could serve as judges. Zweig was enrolled in the Schiller School in Frankfurt. Having become primarily an English speaker in Kenya, she needed to relearn German. She later wrote, "Learning German so that I could read and write and get rid of my English accent took me a couple of months; the assessment as to which is my mother-language is still going on. I count in English, adore Alice in Wonderland, am best friends with Winnie-the-Pooh and I am still hunting for the humour in German jokes."
After her graduation from the Schiller School in 1953, Zweig started a career as a journalist. She worked for a time as an intern and then an editor for the Offenbach section of Abendpost, a tabloid newspaper which served the Frankfurt region. From 1959–1988 Zweig worked in Frankfurt for Abendpost and its successor Abendpost/Nachtausgabe [Evening Post/Night Edition]j. She directed the arts section ("Feuilleton") from 1963. Abendpost/Nachtausgabe folded in 1988, after which Zweig became a freelance journalist and writer. Hans Riebsamen wrote in 2012 that "In retrospect, both Zweig and her readership can be happy that Abendpost/Nachtausgabe folded in 1988."
While working for Abendpost, Zweig wrote a number of children's books, commencing with Eltern sind auch Menschen [Parents are people too] (1978). Her first African novel was the novel for young adults Ein Mundvoll Erde [A Mouthful of Earth] (1980). It describes an infatuation with a Kĩkũyũ boy; the book won several awards, including the Glass Globe of the Royal Dutch Geographical Society.
Zweig explained in an interview that the success of Ein Mundvoll Erde encouraged her to write her first novel for adults. She said, "I thought to myself, 'You really are a fool to waste all your life in a children's book, why don't you tell the true story?'." Nirgendwo in Afrika [Nowhere in Africa] appeared in 1995. She described it simply as "the story of a courageous father who taught his daughter not to hate." It recounts the story of her family's life in Kenya from their arrival in 1938 until their return to Germany in 1947. The book was a bestseller in Germany, and launched a writing career that extended over another dozen novels. The life of Zweig's family in Germany from their return in 1947 until the death of her father from heart failure in 1958 is recounted in her second autobiographical novel Irgendwo in Deutschland [Somewhere in Germany] (1996). She later published the "Rothschildallee" series of four novels that appeared from 2007 to 2011; Zweig's family home in Frankfurt had long been on this street. In 2012 she published her memoir, Nirgendwo war Heimat: Mein Leben auf zwei Kontinenten [Nowhere was Home: My Life on Two Continents].
In all Zweig's books have sold over seven million copies and have been translated into fifteen languages. The 2002 film adaptation of Nirgendwo in Afrika was written and directed by Caroline Link. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the German Film Award for Best Feature Film, and several other prizes. While the film attracted international attention to Zweig, she was not directly involved in its making. Marlies Comjean has translated two of her novels, which appear in English as Nowhere in Africa and Somewhere in Germany; see the bibliography below. In addition to these books, Zweig had continued her work as a journalist, and up to 2013 was writing a column My World (Meine Welt) for the newspaper Frankfurter Neue Presse.
Zweig died on 25 April 2014 after a short illness. Her partner Wolfgang Häfele predeceased her in 2013. She had chosen to be buried in the Neuen Jüdischen Friedhof [New Jewish Cemetery] in Frankfurt.
- Eltern sind auch Menschen [Parents are People Too] (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer. 1978. ISBN 3-439-78103-8.
- Ein Mundvoll Erde [A Mouthful of Earth] (in German). Union-Verlag. 1980. ISBN 3-8139-5356-4. OCLC 38741676. Reissued as Vivian und Ein Mundvoll Erde [Vivian and a Mouthful of Earth] (in German). LangenMüller. 2001. ISBN 3-7844-2842-8. This book consists of the original young adult novel and an autobiographical introduction entitled "Vivian".
- Nirgendwo in Afrika [Nowhere in Africa] (in German). LangenMüller. 1995. ISBN 3-7844-2802-9. OCLC 34308707. See also: Nowhere in Africa. Marlies Comjean (translator). University of Wisconsin Press. 2004. ISBN 978-0299199609.
- Irgendwo in Deutschland [Somewhere in Germany] (in German). LangenMüller. 1996. ISBN 3-7844-2578-X. See also: Somewhere in Germany. Marlies Comjean (translator). University of Wisconsin Press/Terrace Books. 2006. ISBN 9780299210106. OCLC 64453419.
- Doch die Träume blieben in Afrika [But the dreams stayed in Africa] (in German). LangenMüller. 1998. ISBN 3-7844-2697-2.
- Karibu heißt willkommen [Karibu means welcome] (in German). LangenMüller. 2000. ISBN 3-7844-2801-0.
- Es begann damals in Afrika [It started at that time in Africa] (in German). LangenMüller. 2004. ISBN 3-7844-2963-7.
- Und das Glück ist anderswo [And Happiness lies Elsewhere] (in German). Langen Müller. 2007. ISBN 3-7844-3027-9.
- Nur die Liebe bleibt [Only Love Remains] (in German). Langen Müller. 2006. ISBN 3-7844-3051-1.
- Das Haus in der Rothschildallee [The House on Rothschild Avenue] (in German). Langen Müller. 2007. ISBN 3-7844-3103-8.
- Die Kinder der Rothschildallee [The Children of Rothschild Avenue] (in German). Langen Müller. 2009. ISBN 3-7844-3158-5.
- Heimkehr in die Rothschildallee [Homecoming to Rothschild Avenue] (in German). Langen Müller. 2010. ISBN 978-3-7844-3240-3.
- Neubeginn in der Rothschildallee [A New Beginning on Rothschild Avenue] (in German). Langen Müller. 2011. ISBN 978-3-7844-3268-7.
- Nirgendwo war Heimat: Mein Leben auf zwei Kontinenten [Nowhere was Home: My Life on two Continents] (in German). Langen Müller. 2012. ISBN 978-3-7844-3310-3.
- Pohl, Kitti (7 March 2013). "Ich habe die große Liebe meines Lebens verloren" [I've lost the great love of my life]. Bild.de (in German).
- Vitello, Paul (May 1, 2014). "Stefanie Zweig, Author Who Fled Nazis to Kenya, Dies at 81". The New York Times.
- Zweig, Stephanie (20 March 2003). "Strangers in a strange land". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- "Stefanie Zweig". Schillerschule Frankfurt. 11 June 2011.
- Braun, Lothar R. (19 September 2012). "Stefanie Zweig wird 80 Jahre. Schöne Jahre in Offenbach" [Stefanie Zweig turns 80. Happy years in Offenbach.]. op-online.de (in German) (Offenbach Post).
- "Bestsellerautorin Stefanie Zweig gestorben" [Bestselling author Stefanie Zweig has died]. Die Welt (in German). 27 April 2014.
- "Lange gesucht Den Boulevard-Zeitungen laufen die Leser weg. Frankfurts 'Abendpost/Nachtausgabe' wurde eingestellt." [Long-sought street newspapers elude their readers. Frankfurt's 'Abendpost/Nachtausgabe' will fold.]. Der Spiegel (in German). 19 December 1988.
- Riebsamen, Hans (September 15, 2012). "Stefanie Zweig im Porträt: Noch einmal zurück nach Afrika" [A portrait of Stefanie Zweig: Once more back to Africa]. Frankfurter Allgemeine. "Im Nachhinein können sie und ihre Leserschaft froh darüber sein, dass die „Abendpost-Nachtausgabe“ 1988 eingestellt wurde."
- 1981 short list for the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis [German Prize for Children's Literature]. See "Ein Mundvoll Erde". Arbeitskreis für Jugendliteratur e.V. Retrieved 2014-05-07.
- Thomas, Rebecca (4 April 2003). "African love affair inspires Oscar". BBC News.
- "Stefanie Zweig - Das Haus in der Rothschildallee". Readers Digest (in German). Retrieved 2014-05-08.
- "Stefanie Zweig als FNP-Kolumnistin" [Stefanie Zweig as FNP columnist]. Frankfurter Neue Presse. Retrieved 2014-05-08. Listing of Zweig's columns with online availability.
- "Trauer um Bestseller-Autorin: Stefanie Zweig ist tot" [Mourning a bestselling author: Stefanie Zweig is dead]. spiegel.de (in German) (Der Spiegel). 27 April 2014.
- Pohl, Kitti (29 April 2014). "Große Stefanie Zweig beigesetzt" [Great Stefanie Zweig Buried]. Bild.de (in German) (Das Bild).
- Cooper, Rand Richards (2 May 2004). "Nowhere in Africa". The New York Times. "'Nowhere in Africa' suffers from inert dialogue, jarring shifts in point of view and a parade of stock figures. Don't blame the translator, Marlies Comjean: Zweig's stew of metaphors is just as unappetizing in the original German. And that's too bad, because the best parts of the book are superb -- like the opening, epistolary chapter, a series of letters from Walter to family members trapped back in Europe."
- "Fiction Book Review: Somewhere in Germany". Publishers Weekly. 17 July 2006. "Although its setting isn't the exotic Kenya of the original novel and Comjean's translation is stiff and prolix, this is a worthy meditation on homelessness, exile and belonging."
- Westbrook, Caroline (10 April 2003). "Interview with Stefanie Zweig". Something Jewish. "We were not Orthodox, but we have always been traditional Jews, and that was what the film's director Caroline Link didn't understand, and I was trying to explain it to her but she didn't know what I was talking about."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Stefanie Zweig.|
- Stefanie Zweig in the German National Library catalogue
- Stefanie Zweig at the Internet Movie Database