‘Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman’ is a novella by Stefan Zweig, an Austrian novelist and playwright. Translated by Anthea Bell and published by Pushkin Press, this is a novella of gambling, lust, and lowered inhibitions…
I’m not going to lie – I originally requested this on NetGalley because I assumed it would be some sort of feminist novella. I was wrong. Not that it is misogynistic, it just…isn’t that sort of text. Although I was initially disappointed by this, I quickly warmed to Zweig’s deft and absolutely delicious descriptions, his text-within-a-text, and the sheer intensity of emotion that pervades throughout the novella.
It’s obvious that this is a translation, but, unusually, I quite liked that. The translation is good, there’s no doubt about that (though it is difficult to define what a ‘good’ translation is) – but it feels sort-of like Bell has delved into the first two layers of meaning, leaving the last, untranslatable layer to only be guessed at by the reader… but in the most magical way possible! After doing a brief Google search, I am not at all surprised by the nuance within the translation, as Bell is most famous for translating the Asterix comics, and Cornelia Funke’s ‘Inkheart’ series!
As a sheer tour de force of translation, this novella is unmissable. As for Zweig himself, I would much rather have read a collection of works in order to get a proper feel for his writing – however, I greatly enjoyed ‘Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman’, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more of his work.