Europe, early in the twentieth century: a world adrift, a pulsating era of creativity and contradictions. The hot topics of the day - terrorism and globalisation, immigration, consumerism, the lack of moral values and rivalling superpowers - could make one forget that it is a century ago that this era vanished in the trenches of the Somme, of Ypres, and of Passchendaele. Or did it? The closer one looks, the more this world seems like ours: feminism and quantum thedory, atonal music and democratisation, mass communication and commercial branding, genetics, state-sponsored genocide, colonialism, consumerism and racism, radioactivity and psychoanalysis are all terms first used during this period. This was a time radically unlike the Victorian era that preceded it, a time in which old certainties broke down and many people lost their bearings.
At the heart of this vibrant Europe, was a contradiction that would cause its collapse: the new, modern world of mass production, urban life, technological warfare and a rapidly growing working class was still ruled by men - Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicolas II, and the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Francis Joseph among them - who thought in the chivalric and paternalistic categories of earlier generations, prefering the image of dashing cavalry officers to the prosaic slaughter of the machine gun, and national mythology to political cohesion and democracy. The eventual scope of the catastrophe often obscures the fact that the great cultural divide in Europe's history lies before 1914. This book will bring to life the immediacy of the lives and issues of this fascinating and flawed period.
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(242mm x 158mm x 42mm)
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
As Queen Victoria passes, Vienna-based historian Blom (To Have and to Hold: An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting, 2003, etc.) finds a Modern World breaking through the crust.In this masterful presentation, the time in question is so richly laced with scientific bedazzlement, social ferment and cultural churning that a sense of giddying misadventure begins to feel strangely familiar. The roots of tensions that alternately bind and threaten to fracture today's Europe are all there, easily visible to us in hindsight but not to most of those who lived through it and experienced as a result, the author posits, mass vertigo. In analytical chronicles of this kind, the little delights that leap out serendipitously are a large part of the reward. The French, supposed masters of the art of love who were unable to reproduce sufficiently to maintain the population, still held sway as cultural arbiters, anointed in 1870 by a historian who noted: "Perhaps nothing is properly understood in Europe until the French have explained it." Yet these explicating authorities initially greeted groundbreaking painters van Gogh and Gauguin as insane and animalistic. The Viennese specialized in elegant duplicity, with their high airs and public manners masking a seamy nightlife whose amateur prostitutes almost outhustled the pros. Best tidbit: Felix Salten, the Austrian writer who invented precious little Bambi, also produced outrageously pornographic works. Sigmund Freud gave up researching the function of bone marrow in lower fishes just in time to define the malaise of the age - and treat those who could afford him. Parisians shrugged then cowered in fear as growing masses of violent street gangs mocked law and order. Real men hated the proto-feminists, and raving anti-Semites saw Jews behind every ill. From Thomas Eakins's stroboscopic photos to Duchamp's descending nude, everything was coming apart.Offers rewarding insights into a period often obscured from view by the decades of conflict that followed. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Philipp Blom
Philipp Blom was born in Hamburg and trained as an historian in Vienna and Oxford. He is the author of 'To Have And To Hold', a history of collectors and collecting and 'Encyclopedia. He writes regularly for journals and newspapers in Europe and the United States. He lives in Vienna.