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1913: The Year before the Storm [Kindle Edition]

Florian Illies , Shaun Whiteside , Jamie Searle
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A witty yet moving narrative worked up from sketched biographical fragments, 1913 is an intimate vision of a world that is about to change forever.

The stuffy conventions of the nineteenth century are receding into the past, and 1913 heralds a new age of unlimited possibility. Kafka falls in love; Louis Armstrong learns to play the trumpet; a young seamstress called Coco Chanel opens her first boutique; Charlie Chaplin signs his first movie contract; and new drugs like cocaine usher in an age of decadence.

Yet everywhere there is the premonition of ruin - the number 13 is omnipresent, and in London, Paris and Vienna, artists take the omen and act as if there were no tomorrow. In a Munich hotel lobby, Rilke and Freud discuss beauty and transience; Proust sets out in search of lost time; and while Stravinsky celebrates the Rite of Spring with industrial cacophony, an Austrian postcard painter by the name of Adolf Hitler sells his conventional cityscapes.

Product Description


The best possible holiday read (Irish Times 2013-07-20)

A hugely enjoyable idiosyncratic month by month narrative, in which the frenzy of artistic activity in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Trieste is conveyed with vigour and humour (Daily Telegraph 2013-06-08)

A vivid, richly textured book that chronicles a world crackling with talent, energy and foreboding (FT 2013-07-20)

A brilliant game of original quotations and tracings (Der Spiegel 2012-10-22)

Illies shapes his material not as a scholar, but as a wordsmith, as a story-teller with a strong sense for dramatic effect and composition...the most enjoyable book I've read in years (Die Welt 2012-10-26)

Illies makes the hundred years between 1913 and his readers disappear. A beautiful book. (Süddeutsche Zeitung 2012-10-25)

Illies is as astute a researcher as he is an observer of the zeitgeist ... reads like something out of a magic realist novel. (Philip Oltermann Guardian 2013-07-20)

I couldn't stop reading - Illies' stories are simply magnificent (Ferdinand von Schirach)

Thorough and fascinating (Time Out 2013-07-09)

An absolute gem of a book. His snapshot approach to the year, recorded month by month, is the most original historical account I've come across ... Illies's genius turn of phrase, beautifully retained by Shaun Whiteside and Jamie Lee Searle's elegant translation, can be found throughout ... The entries read like history's footnotes, but as anyone who's read Freud knows, the footnotes always tell the best story. (Lucy Scholes Observer 2013-07-21)

Book Description

From James Joyce to Coco Chanel, 1913 is an irreverent but poignant portrait of Europe on the brink of war, now in paperback.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3709 KB
  • Print Length: 277 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1846689511
  • Publisher: Clerkenwell Press (18 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DG8V8MW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,818 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1913 - art in the German speaking world 7 Aug. 2013
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book focuses mainly on the artistic world of 1913, with a strong emphasis on what was happening in Germany and Austria at that time. Ranging across art, literature and music the author introduces a range of characters from a single year; Thomas Mann, Kafka, Rilke, Picasso, Coco Channel, Egon Schiele, Sigmund Freud, and Hitler, amongst many others, appear in these pages, and are all featured in interesting anecdotes.

Whilst this book does focus on happenings in the German speaking world Louis Armstrong, Proust and Stravinsky all appear, and add something to the picture.

All this makes for interesting reading which creates the atmosphere of the arts world on the eve of a destruction they couldnot fully forsee. An index would have been useful, but there is a splendid bibliography for those who want to learn more
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Calm Before The Storm 14 Sept. 2013
By Lorna
I adored this book. It's a strange one, a bit of a cross between fiction & historical fact. Month by month, the book lets us into the lives of the wonderful & talented of Europe in 1913. We see what people like Freud, Franz Ferdinand, Picasso, Hitler, Stalin et al were doing & where they were during this year. It also gives a feel of the political situation of the time, & in places you can see the cogs in place moving Europe towards war.
The prose made the book for me. It was almost poetic in parts & some of the little snippets read like a short story. I found myself re-reading lines over again to take them in. I enjoyed it so much I almost wished I could read German proficiently enough to read the original.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, but significant? 17 Aug. 2013
This book is very well researched, providing personal and sometimes intimate information on the literary, artistic and political giants of 1913, some already famous, some, like Hitler to emerge later. The book is arranged on a monthly basis through the year, and provides shortish snippets on each individual and his/her relationships, gaining some narrative force by building on these through the year.

I learned quite a lot, for example the extent of Kafka's neuroses, Hitler's single minded pursuit of a living through production line painting, and Thomas Mann's homosexuality, the autobiographical links to Death in Venice and the fact that Katia his wife is upset. However after a while this all began to jar on me, there seemed to be no underlying thesis or dynamic, and it began to feel like voyeuristic tittle tattle. This was heightened by the author's rather amused, God-like overview; he knows what's going to happen but they don't, and in this sense it felt disrespectful towards his subjects.

Furthermore, referring to the book's subtitle "The year before the storm" I was expecting greater resonance between the lives described and the broader political and social mood and events leading to war.

Looking at the other reviews I can see I'm rather out on a limb here, a disappointment for me, but an informative book for those wishing to know more about the remarkable individuals depicted.[...]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An enormous disappointment. The idea -- a collection of anecdotes about prominent artistic and other people throughout the year before the breakout of the First World War -- is promising. But it needs an organizing principle. This book has none, beyond returning month by month to a few particular individuals: Franz Marc, Rainer Maria Rilke, Artur Schnitzler, Alma Mahler and Sigmund Freud among them. I bought the book because of a continuing interest in Alma Mahler and Freud, but there's absolutely nothing new here. On the contrary, what there is is superficial and often inconsequential. Worse, the effect is simply silly. For example, the idea that, since Stalin and Hitler were in Vienna at the same time, imagine that they might have passed each other while walking in the park. So what?! The speculation is entirely idle, and completely meaningless. It says nothing about either man, but a lot about the author's barrenness of ideas. Also, though it could be the fault of the translation, the writing is often slipshod. A waste of time.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Footnotes/footlights 26 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is not a history reference book or a novel. It is 1913 presented as a series of footnotes, asides, gossip and waggish speculation. The Personal & Professional lives of everyone from Picasso to Kafka, Mann(Heinrich) to Mann(Thomas), via Duchamp, Else Lasker-Schuler, Freud and Jung get a thorough ventilation - but national issues are not left out. A well written counterpoint, if a bit too "chatty" at times, to the dry, pre-war dominoes history that was forced upon us at school - and a reminder of how the art world (German speakers in particular) was to be decimated and scattered by that war. Though it focuses mostly on Paris, Berlin and Vienna every city from Chicago to Moscow gets at least a mention (The South Pole even gets in there). It seems it was a very busy year though the book never feels "crammed". The pace and moments of levity and pathos give, by turns, an absurdly logical character and a sense of glowering immanence to the great convulsion that is soon to come. Well,well worth reading.Best read in sequence the first time around and then dipped into here and there as a palate cleanser between novels or (probably for men) "auf der klo" reading.With or without it's modish dust jacket a handsome book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It got boring and I did not bother to finish the book
Interesting but far too much dragging in names from around Europe giving them a tenuous connection to Vienna where the book is set. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Evelyn H
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Hard read, full of interesting information but not a page turner
Published 3 months ago by Caroline
3.0 out of 5 stars As it went on it started to get boring...
I'm sorry, but even with my knowledge of art and history of this period and even Germany and Austria, I found myself losing interest in a vast amount of people I'd never heard of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Paul Murdock
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I started out with high hopes but half way through I began to lose heart.
Published 4 months ago by JaneinCornwall
4.0 out of 5 stars Manages to evoke the ambiance of Mitteleuropa before the Great War...
Great sequence of stories which the author manages to narrate in parallel, yet intertwine them through facts or through some spirited speculation. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Janos Strohmayer
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Non-Fiction
This non-fiction book follows the lives of many famous and infamous artists, poets, scientists and thinkers in Europe in 1913. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sophie
2.0 out of 5 stars I found this book a bit annoying
although some interesting facts so of course worth reading. I thought it was a bit shallow, superficial & facetious. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lindsey Clare Gee-Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect xmas pressent
wonderful book for all those interested in the cultural aspects of the run up to the 1WW. Did you know that Stalin and Hitler went for walks in the same park in 1914 or that... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ms E
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well worth buying and re-reading. Makes you think about what was lost in what followed...
Published 7 months ago by CM
4.0 out of 5 stars An everyday story of mid-European artistic folk
The main character in this book is, unusually, a year, which is explored chronologically through its comprising months and the lives of a large cast of players. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Secret Spi
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