Literary Criticism

The spiritual superiority of the vanquished

‘The spiritual superiority of the vanquished’ – I came across that phrase in the Metzler Lexikon Weltliteratur entry on Stefan Zweig by Helmut Scheuer (in German: ‘die seelische Superiorität des Besiegten’) and think it’s brilliant.

The phrase is used in the context of Zweig’s rejection of violence, and it captures so well that often the vanquished are the true, that is to say, the moral and spiritual victors. Often it really is better to let the other ‘win’. That’s not always easy to do (now here’s an understatement for you), but it is well worth practising.