by Stefan Zweig
Die Forderung der Solidarität. First published in „Max Brod. Festschrift zum Fünfzigsten Geburtstag“, edited by Felix Weltsch, Mährisch-Ostrau 1934. Also published in „Das Geheimnis des künstlerischen Schaffens,“ Fischer Verlag 1993. Translated into English by Manuela Kölke
“One of the most difficult problems in the lives of writers and any creative person is their relationship to the community, their undeniable duty of solidarity. And here there is an inner conflict. “Ancient enmity,” as Rainer Maria Rilke unsurpassably says, “between life and great work.” The work they are supposed to create and the intellectual, the artistic expression they want to give to their work, actually condemn writers to seclusion. In order to concentrate, in order to grasp the problems of the time as clearly as possible, they would have to detach themselves completely from what is happening, to stand alone, to think for themselves.
To remain impartial, they would have to stay clear of all prejudices, outside any group, any community. But it is precisely the effect of their work that cancels this remoteness and brings them back into relation with the real world. Poets, artists, by expressing themselves in their work, address others and thereby give others a right, a right to themselves. As they call upon the world to share their feelings and ideas with them, the world turns to them in the likeness of countless individuals who now demand compassion for their personal misery and fate. The fame accorded to writers and artists is nothing but the sum of a wealth of human trust they have earned, and this trust inevitably turns into a demand. Since people regard them as the ones who understand and know better, they rightly demand that they also be the ones who help. Since they perceive them to be leaders in spirit, they claim that they should support them at every opportunity, and therefore actually demand that they leave behind seclusion and solitude, and with it, however, the indispensable precondition for their work. They want them, who have a powerful command of the word, to speak out on every occasion that concerns them and to express the same solidarity that they feel towards them.