Oz Blog News Commentary

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Stefan Zweig, borders, exile and Manus Island

April 30, 2014 - 11:42 -- Admin

I am yet to see Wes Anderson’s latest (and according to Crikey’s Luke Buckmaster “in many respects his greatest”) film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, but I eagerly anticipate doing so. And after reading Anka Muelstein’s essay  about the writer Stefan Zweig, whose work inspired Anderson’s film, it seems as appropriate way as any to reflect on Operation Sovereign Borders.

Zweig committed suicide alongside his wife in Brazil in 1942, despite his circumstances being more fortunate than those of many other European refugees thanks to the contacts established during his career as a popular and successful writer. In Muelstein’s words:

“all these contacts prove useless in the face of an increasingly brutal political reality. In his memoirs, Zweig laments the end of a world where you could travel without passports, without being called upon to justify your existence, and in the film it is the arrival of the border guards that spells the doom of the fictional concierge. The first time they appear, he’s saved by the intervention of an officer who recognizes in him an indulgent witness of his childhood holidays, but the second time he falls victim to the gratuitous violence of the henchmen of a terrifying power. It’s Zweig’s influence that tinges the film with nostalgia and gives it its depth.”

I will remember the Manus Island detention centre while watching The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Update: More on Zweig in The New Yorker.