The Post Office Girl, by Stefan Zweig is a book that concerns a female postal clerk in a small town in Austria.
The pages depict the poverty in her small town in Austria, post World War I. Zweig is extremely detailed in his word-imagery, and his descriptions exhale life lived on the edge of survival. The country was in turmoil, and he shows how the main character, Christine Hoflehner, lives a rote life, burdened with monetary insufficiency, and an ill mother. She feels life drags on from day to day.
It literally does, until a telegram arrives. She has been invited to take a trip to visit her aunt Clair and her uncle, who are vacationing in Switzerland. She packed a few meager belongings in a straw suitcase, and journeyed by train to see them, through a naive mindset. That telegram changed the course of her life, and altered her personality. The reader sees her transformation, immediately.
Her aunt and uncle are vacationing in an ultra swanky hotel, one that caters to the elite. Christine was in awe, at first glance. She feels inadequate, and feels as if she is being looked upon as one of the staff members. Her aunt sees the perception, and gives her a few dresses, and some accessories to wear. With her new apparel, she begins to gain a sense of worth. She literally changes, dramatically, from introvert to quite the extrovert in her interactions and behavior. She sees life through new eyes.
Unexpected events occur that lead her back home. Once there she feels cheated, defeated, and feels entitled to the life led while on vacation. She feels out of place in a world healing from turmoil and political oppression. She takes it upon herself to travel to Vienna for a weekend getaway, and visits her sister and brother-in-law, also living in poverty.
The story continues with her impressionable mindset, and her being persuaded to delve into areas she never would have thought of, on her own. To tell you the occurrences would be to spoil the story. I will just say that she is not the same Christine the reader views in the beginning. The initial vacation caused her to perceive life and social mores differently. She becomes angry, and her anger sets her on a course of negative decisions.
Stefan Zweig is brilliant and masterful in his story telling, within the pages of The Post Office Girl. He leaves no stone unturned in his assessment of human behavior and minute details. The story is a stark study of human behavior and morals. The book is a valuable work of literature, exploring social standards and their impact on individuals caught in the fray.
The Post Office Girl was published posthumously. The manuscript was found after Zweig’s death. It was not intentionally left for publication.
Much of the novel depicts the strife, poverty and burdens to survive in a bleak world. The second half of it clearly demonstrates the debilitation of lifestyle that individuals went through. Those on the fringe were left with less than the threads they originally had.
Stefan Zweig certainly was masterful in his depictions, emotional ones, as well as visual. I tend to think that the story line is more relevant to his own life, which ended all too soon, by suicide.