Confusion by Stefan Zweig

Confusion - Stefan Zweig, George Prochnik, Anthea Bell


We live through myriads of seconds, yet it is always one, just one, that casts our entire inner world into turmoil.

Roland, a well respected, older professor who holds an honored place in the ivory towers of academia, recalls his life as a young student, and his relationship to his own professor and mentor at that time-- a man whom he admired, obsessed over and wanted to emulate. He replays memories of his situation as a university student, having had a horrific grievance with his father, renting a room in his teacher's home and becoming his amanuensis. 

Roland discovers that being in such close proximity to his professor and his wife, deeply checked secrets become increasingly difficult to suppress. His confusion is borne from the innocence of a youth whose direction is often ambiguous in the face of inexperience: too naive to comprehend a sideways glance; too unsophisticated to decipher a muffled conversation or to interpret the slightest change of demeanor. This living arrangement becomes one of anxiety, mixed emotions, tension, and misunderstanding. 

What place had I reached? I had sensed the secrets quite close, its hot breath already on my face, and now it had retreated again, but its shadow, its silent, opaque shadow still murmured in the air, I felt it as a dangerous presence in the house..

While his wife manages the game of secrets with a deft hand, Roland's mentor lives in constant fear of his secret being revealed, especially in a society that keeps the 'perpetrator's' name on a 'certain list'. 

It isn't right, not a young student and his teacher, do you understand? One must keep one's distance...

Such restrained passions do not fit comfortably in the conventional form of the period, and must be kept hushed up, closeted, hidden behind closed doors. The relationships between the three feverishly entangle into a discombobulated love triangle.

It will soon be cleared up because I'm not letting him play with you and confuse you like that anymore. There must be an end to all this. He must finally learn to control himself. You're too good for his dangerous games.

Zweig takes the reader into a turbulence of high-strung emotions, as crossed messages become haphazardly layered one on top the other. He portrays Roland's fiery confusion as a pathogen, taking over the thoughts of one person who spreads its virulent toxins to the other.

Nothing however is more arousing and intriguing to a young man than a teasing set of vague suspicions; the imagination usually wandering idly finds its quarry suddenly revealed to it, and is immediately agog with the newly discovered pleasure of the chase.

Confusion's plot isn't a contemporary one - outlooks have changed since the period this story was set; and by today's standards, it is basically nothing to be shocked by. For that reason, it wouldn't completely excite the reader. However, it is another wonderful gem from Zweig's observations into human affects and relationships. It may be a bit disorienting and frenzied, but that was the whole purpose.


Here's a little reggae ditty:

We all got something to hide,
We're all livin' a lie...

What goes on behind closed doors?
Nobody knows, nobody knows for sure

by Lionize -