from my bookshelf: marie antoinette by stefan zweig


marie antoinette is a comprehensive biography about the girl who became the queen of france when she was only a teenager. even though it is nonfiction, it reads like a fiction novel. stefan zweig takes a deep dive into this brief section of french history while delivering in-depth portraits of marie antoinette and her family and friends. as much as i love kirsten dunst’s interpretation in the 2006 movie version, i found this book to be a much better way to learn the historical facts behind the story.


“Dissatisfaction, so long as it remains vague and general, is a passive quality. If it is to become actively combatant, if it is to manifest itself, it must be able to concentrate itself upon a human figure, which may be the banner-bearer of an ideal, or may be a target for stored hatred–as was, symbolically, the scapegoat of the Bible.”

“But now, when her heart craves for calm, the barometer of the times points to storm. At the very hour when Marie Antoinette is eager to atone for her faults and to withdraw into the background, a pitiless will, overmastering her own, drives her forwards to become one of the central figures in the most tumultuous scenes of history.”

“For never is a woman more honourable and nobler than when she gives free rein to the unerring sentiments and instincts which have been animating her for years; never is a queen more queenly than when she shows herself a true woman.”

“Quiet is a creative element. It assembles, it purifies, it arranges the internal energies; it brings once more together what riotous movement has dissipated. Just as in a bottle which has been shaken, if you place it on the table the contents will settle, the heavy severing itself from the light, so in a mingled disposition do calm and thoughtfulness make certain elements of the character more plain.”

“For when a human being begins to plumb his own depths, when he has determined to dig into the inmost recesses of his own personality, he discovers in his own blood the shadowy powers of his ancestors.”

“When the King of France had to dress as a menial in order to escape from his people, he could no longer be lord of his own destiny.”

“As has happened a thousand times in history, the course of events was turned by the action of one energetic man.”

“Besides, he knew well enough that the fate of the monarchy had been decided by the weakness of the monarch…”