Ezra Pound referred to 1922 as Year One of a new era. It was the year in which a skinny, shabby Irishman and a natty, quietly sinister American entered the cultural landscape, hell-bent on exploding everything that realistic fiction and Georgian poetry held dear. It was the year which began with the publication of Ulysses and ended with the publication of The Waste Land: the most influential English-language novel and poem of the century. Despite several revolutions in taste, these two works remain the twin towers at the beginning of modern literature; some would say, of modernity itself. And it was the generous, indefatigable, discerning Ezra Pound who played a significant part in the launch of both writers' careers.
Constellation of Genius puts the accomplishments of Eliot and Joyce in the context of the world in which their works appeared - a year of remarkable firsts, births, and foundations. The passing of an old world: the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the end of British Liberalism with the crushing defeat by the Conservatives at the General Election, the thwarting of Marcus Garvey's dreams for a new Africa. Dada was put to rest, Proust died and Hollywood transformed the nature of fame, making Charlie Chaplin the most recognisable man on the planet. Hitchcock directed his first feature, Kandinsky and Klee joined the Bauhaus and Louis Armstrong took the train from New Orleans to Chicago, heralding the beginning of modern jazz.
Gloriously entertaining, erudite and idiosyncratic, this is a biography of a year, a journey through the diaries of the anthropologists, actors, artists, dancers, designers, film-makers, philosophers, playwrights, politicians and scientists whose lives and works collided over twelve months, creating a frenzy of innovation which broke the world in two.