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1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian…
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1913: The Year Before the Storm (2012)

by Florian Illies

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (17)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  Danish (2)  Spanish (1)  All (25)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This was an engaging read. Illies does a very good job with both his history and his storytelling. Everyone of importance is talked about here. Who was born this year, what artists and writers were doing, what business men and world leaders were planning. Everyone who has or had impact on society is talked about. The way the year is told is as a narrative. The reader goes from one or two lines about what Kafka is dreaming out to two or three pages about who Picasso is sleeping with or running away from. I knew most of the people in this year but not all so now I have more I need to read about. The threat of 1914 is not overwhelming. At times the reader can see where something is going to go wrong but most of what is told is in the moment. Just like we do not know what 2015 will be the people in 1913 really had no idea what was going to come in 1914. Illies makes the book just that about 1913 with really no idea about what is going to happen next. A lot like life.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library. ( )
  lrainey | May 25, 2016 |
A fascinating idea - to take the year before the 1st world war and create this portrait of it. There's some fascinating stuff but it helps if you are interested in middle Eurpean art and literature at the time. It's not exactly very wide ranging but follows a relatively small artistic circle, some of whom are not well known names. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
"Alex, I'll choose 'People I have never heard of' for $600."

I don't know anything about German poetry and early 20th century artists, so much of the name dropping in this book just passed me by. Very little on the people who would have important roles in 1914-1918. ( )
  rgurskey | Dec 13, 2015 |
Some books take you by surprise. Before seeing a chunky little volume entitled 1913 on the shelves of an Oxfam Bookshop, I would never have thought of Florian lllies or about reading a book with that title. I picked it up. Its full title is 1913: der Sommer des Jahrhunderts, published by Fischer in the TaschenBibliothek series in 2015. It is in German and more than 400 pages in length. I studied German to A level and as a subsidiary subject at University. Some of my favourite books stem from that period, for instance Das Brot der fruhen Jahre by Heinrich Boll who incidentally opened Brunel University Library. I recall the bleak picture the book painted of post second world war Germany, the ruins, the struggle for existence, Hedwig, one of the central characters, the drab colours and general gloom.

Boll is not mentioned in 1913 but Kafka, Rilke and Schnitzler are. I studied those authors at school but how superficial that study was. If only Florian Illies had been at hand then. They appear at intervals as the months of 1913 are described and fly by in his book. Kafka worries incessantly about Felice; neither he nor she can make up their minds. Life is miserable for Rilke too. He falls in love with inaccessible women one after the other - although really he doesn't want to get too close. Schnitzler, the doctor, whose Leutnant Gustl I studied for A level and didn't know why or what it was about, did know what 1913 and the avantgarde were about - just a game. He was clever.

My German is poor and I cannot understand lots of words. Recently though I read an article by Lydia Davies who was reading a book in Norwegian with hardly any knowledge of the language. The challenge is just to persevere and plough on line by line, page by page. That is what I did with 1913 and it was worth it.

Serendipity may have drawn my eyes to it in the charity bookshop but as I read through it, I realised that I was in the hands of a brilliant author. Month by month the changing world of European culture is laid before the reader in full knowledge and anticipation of world war in 1914. The artists, literary authors, philosophers and psychologists spring to life with all their peccadillos and of these they have many. Hitler is there selling his paintings one by one to earn a crust; Trakl, a troubled man loves his sister a little too much; Thomas Mann is punctual, punctilious and worries about his house and carpets. Karl Kraus, Kokoschka and Arnold Schonberg all have their moments while Kafka and Felice prevaricate. Did Kafka really want Gregor Samsa to wake up as a bedbug - if that is what Wanze means - rather than a beetle, Kaiser Wilhelm loved ships and planned his own jubilee celebrations; Scott lost out to Amundsen and the quote of Captain Oates sounds quite good in German:

'Ich gehe nur mal raus und konnte etwas langer brauchen'.

Then there is the young and talented Bertolt Brecht. I had no idea he was such a hypochondriac or that Robert Musil was a librarian more or less on permanent sick leave. Was it possible that Stalin, Hitler and Trotsky walked past each other in a park in Vienna; that Hofmannsthal really did bump into Sigmund Freud and then Rilke while trying to recover from a nightmare or that Kafka and Joyce were both in Trieste on September 14th?
Picasso and Matisse loved each other's a work. I was not aware of this or that Gottfried Benn, the surgeon, was so lonely.

This is all name dropping but it is great. Everything is linked to everything else. It is hard to believe that while a huge cataclysmic storm of war is brewing a ferment of creativity is blossoming. Wedekind's Lulu appeared and he set about ranking his favourite cities - 'Paris ist die schonste Stadt der Welt, dann kommt Rom, dann sehr bald Munchen'.

Proust ventures out from his cork lined bedroom at night. I laughed out loud at the comment of Anatole France when just the first volume of A la recherché du temps appeared. 'Life is too short, Proust is too long'. And what about the genius of Golo Mann at 4 years old and Louis Armstrong at 13 - that is not overlooked. Rilke gets toothache and hates Paris.

These cultural icons are all human - far too human, except perhaps Kafka who is in a terrible state. Would you ask for a hand in marriage stating modestly that you were: 'einen kranken, schwachen, ungeselligen, schweigsamen, traurigen, steifen, fast hoffnungslosen Mensch'. Not a good cv but they were all neuroasthenic burnt out cases before the war even began. Freud and Jung were at daggers drawn.

This is a beautiful book. It races along. It makes you smile at the sheer brilliance and madness of these great figures. I loved it. When is it due out in English so that I can find out whether I really did understand it? Did Egon Schiele really stay with Arthur Roessler and play with model trains? ( )
  jon1lambert | Aug 30, 2015 |
This book got off to a good start but started to bog down a bit in the middle. By then I'd put in too much time not to finish, and thankfully the final third got back on track. '1913 The Year Before the Storm', the year before the start of the first World War, and it really was fascinating to read of all the famous people that were travelling in and around Europe during that year. Here are some of the names you will read about, Franz Kafka, Marcel Duchamp, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Adolf Hitler (in 1913 a penniless artist), Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Henri Matisse. Charlie Chaplin signs his first movie contract in 1913 and the book opens with a fascinating little story about how Louis Armstrong gets his first trumpet. slow but full of interesting details. ( )
  Fliss88 | May 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Florian Illiesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Andrae, KarinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Searle, Jamie LeeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whiteside, ShaunTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"It was the year Henry Ford first put a conveyer belt in his car factory, and the year Louis Armstrong first picked up a trumpet. It was the year Charlie Chaplin signed his first movie contract, and Coco Chanel and Prada opened their first dress shops. It was the year Proust began his opus, Stravinsky wrote The Rite of Spring, and the first Armory Show in New York introduced the world to Picasso and the world of abstract art. It was the year the recreational drug now known as ecstasy was invented. It was 1913, the year before the world plunged into the catastrophic darkness of World War I. In a witty yet moving narrative that progresses month by month through the year, and is interspersed with numerous photos and documentary artifacts (such as Kafka's love letters), Florian Illies ignores the conventions of the stodgy tome so common in 'one year' histories. Forefronting cultural matters as much as politics, he delivers a charming and riveting tale of a world full of hope and unlimited possibility, peopled with amazing characters and radical politics, bristling with new art and new technology, even as ominous storm clouds began to gather."--book jacket.… (more)

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