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Lafayette's grave and German friendships 

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 27, 2022

📍 🇫🇷 Lafayette's grave and German friendships

Writing about his youth, shortly before the First World War began, Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig (1881-1942 CE) toured Europe for conferences, friendly encounters - not yet the “book-selling star” he would become in the 1920s.

Amongst all youthful Parisian memories, his friendship with Rainar Maria Rilke (1875-1926 CE), of Austrian origin like himself, struck him the most at the end of his life. Shy, often sick, Rilke lived in Paris to rejuvenate his own poetic style. Passing by France’s capital frequently then, Zweig remembered in his diary the following oddity:

“Once, when we met at the home of mutual friends, I told him that on the day before I had chanced upon the old Barrière [a wall marking the limits of Paris] where the last victims of the guillotine had been buried in the Cimetière de Picpus [Zweig refers to the 1793 French Revolution massacres].

“I described to him the affecting little meadow with its scattered graves, rarely seen by strangers, and told him how on the way back I had seen in one of the streets through the open door of a convent a sort of béguine, silently telling her rosary as in a pious dream. It was one of the few times when I saw this gentle composed man almost impatient. He had to see the grave of André Chénier and the convent. Would I take him there?

“We went the next day. He stood in a sort of entranced silence before the lonesome cemetery and called it “the most lyric in Paris.””

____ Sources ____

>> Stefan Zweig, “The World of Yesterday”, 1941

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