Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918” as Want to Read:
Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  64 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
These fascinating, never-before-published early diaries of Count Harry Kessler—patron, museum director, publisher, cultural critic, soldier, secret agent, and diplomat—present a sweeping panorama of the arts and politics of Belle Époque Europe, a glittering world poised to be changed irrevocably by the Great War. Kessler’s immersion in the new art and literature of Paris, ...more
Hardcover, 960 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Journey to the Abyss, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Journey to the Abyss

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 17, 2011 Geoff marked it as to-read
I'll not be Time-bound; for what good are words and this life of reading if not to take me out and away from this miserable epoch, delimit this one life and then breach the boundaries I come up against? What good are words and this life of reading and writing except to wage constant war on Time and all its petty minions? What are words but ways to recover lost kingdoms & preserve in amber our own, to resurrect lost worlds or descry potential new ones? Look at me now! I'm born anew! To a duke ...more
Jun 26, 2014 Simon rated it it was amazing
A slow, magnificent read. Kessler knew everyone worth knowing in the Europe between 1880 and 1918, and was diligent in keeping an account of his life as both a German and a member of the international culture that knew no boundaries. In the end he was dragged (somewhat willingly) into the disaster of World War I, despite his contempt for the Wilhelmine government.

The book is so dense that reading it took weeks. The editorial work is outstanding, and that's part of the problem. The footnotes wil
Feb 05, 2013 Debn added it
This book is outstanding - not just a window on a lost world, but a window on one of the most engaging, frustrating, eloquent, enigmatic & admirable human beings to live through some of the most turbulent times in German history. In these diary entries (beautifully translated and annotated by Easton) Kessler's personal diary reveals how he transitions from a reflexively conservative aristocrat to a military nationalist to a socialist, and all the while is a cosmopolitan, a humanitarian, a mo ...more
Laura Jordan
Jul 08, 2012 Laura Jordan rated it it was amazing
This book was so rich, so dense, that there really wasn't any point in trying to get through it quickly. So I parceled it out into manageable bits, reading 20 pages a day -- it took me six weeks. But there really was so much to be gained from doing it this way. I felt like I really got to know Kessler, the world that he inhabited, his social circles, and his way of thinking. After I finished up the last page today, I realized that I was a little sad to be leaving someone whose company I had come ...more
Jun 15, 2012 Andrew rated it it was amazing
The German count was described by W.H. Auden as "probably the most cosmopolitan man who ever lived." Kessler was fluent in English, German, French and Greek and travelled actively through Europe and the Americas while pursuing his art and diplomatic careers.

The book is fascinating as an insight into an artistocrat's world. Famous people pop up with stupid ideas (Degas: "Compulsory education is an infamy"); dinner conversations course among people like George Bernard Shaw and Rodin; and great col
Oct 20, 2015 John rated it it was amazing
what a different time...
Marc Bosma
Sep 11, 2016 Marc Bosma rated it liked it
Ik heb de versie in Privé-domein gelezen. Heel intrigerend om een beeld te kunnen krijgen van deze tijd en van de vele verschillende domeinen waarin Kessler actief was. Invloedrijke man. Bv. rond Volkenbond, links democratische beweging in de Weimar republiek, bevordering kunst, behouden archief van Nietzsche etc.
Nov 10, 2016 Alexandra rated it it was amazing
i read this slowly over the last few years, and kessler became a friend of sorts. i did not always agree with his arrogant judgements, but he had a beautiful mind. i hope the rest of his diaries are translated. reading such a personal account of WWI in the time of Trump helped shine a light on the uncertain times in the USA right now.
Stephen Schenkenberg
Stephen Schenkenberg rated it it was amazing
Apr 24, 2012
Peter Kavanagh
Peter Kavanagh rated it it was amazing
Oct 07, 2012
Richard Bolson
Richard Bolson rated it really liked it
Jul 30, 2013
Win rated it really liked it
Feb 13, 2013
Phil rated it it was amazing
Nov 15, 2011
Jeff rated it it was amazing
Mar 02, 2013
Vinaro Sam
Vinaro Sam rated it really liked it
Jul 22, 2014
Markus Nowak
Markus Nowak rated it it was amazing
Jan 12, 2016
Bill Southall
Bill Southall rated it it was amazing
Nov 08, 2014
Keith Aldis
Keith Aldis rated it really liked it
Mar 02, 2013
Andie101 rated it liked it
Nov 25, 2013
Simon Maxwell-Stewart
Simon Maxwell-Stewart rated it it was amazing
Jun 09, 2016
Dong rated it liked it
Mar 28, 2012
Mickael Gondrand
Mickael Gondrand rated it it was amazing
Apr 24, 2014
Alan rated it liked it
May 15, 2015
Sabrina rated it liked it
Dec 18, 2012
Katalin Eisenberg
Katalin Eisenberg rated it it was amazing
May 18, 2013
Britta rated it really liked it
Dec 19, 2011
Katherine rated it really liked it
Dec 13, 2012
Hannah Chamberlain
Hannah Chamberlain rated it liked it
Jan 04, 2013
Brian rated it liked it
May 16, 2014
Richard Brown
Richard Brown rated it really liked it
Sep 11, 2014
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Diaries of Harry Count Kessler 1 5 May 02, 2012 01:25AM  
  • Schnitzler's Century: The Making of Middle Class Culture, 1815-1914
  • What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933
  • The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt
  • The Late Lord Byron (Neversink)
  • Daughters of Decadence: Women Writers of the Fin-de-Siècle
  • I Am the Most Interesting Book of All: The Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff, Vol. 1
  • Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s
  • The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914
  • The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began
  • Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives Of The Pre Raphaelites
  • Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor
  • Die Tante Jolesch
  • Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends
  • La Folie Baudelaire
  • In Ruins: A Journey Through History, Art, and Literature
  • The Letters of Sylvia Beach
  • Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories
  • Women of the Left Bank
Harry Clemens Ulrich Kessler was an Anglo-German count, diplomat, writer, and patron of modern art. English translations of his diaries "Journey to the Abyss" (2011) and "Berlin in Lights" (1971) reveal anecdotes and details of artistic, theatrical, and political life in Europe, mostly in Germany, from the late 19th century through the collapse of Germany at the end of World War I until his death ...more
More about Harry Graf Kessler...

Share This Book

“Berlin. November 18, 1917. Sunday. I think Grosz has something demonic in him. This new Berlin art in general, Grosz, Becher, Benn, Wieland Herzfelde, is most curious. Big city art, with a tense density of impressions that appears simultaneous, brutally realistic, and at the same time fairy-tale-like, just like the big city itself, illuminating things harshly and distortedly as with searchlights and then disappearing in the glow. A highly nervous, cerebral, illusionist art, and in this respect reminiscent of the music hall and also of film, or at least of a possible, still unrealized film. An art of flashing lights with a perfume of sin and perversity like every nocturnal street in the big city. The precursors are E.T.A. Hoffmann, Breughel, Mallarmé, Seurat, Lautrec, the futurists: but in the density and organization of the overwhelming abundance of sensation, the brutal reality, the Berliners seem new to me. Perhaps one could also include Stravinsky here (Petrushka). Piled-up ornamentation each of which expresses a trivial reality but which, in their sum and through their relations to each other, has a thoroughly un-trivial impact.

All round the world war rages and in the center is this nervous city in which so much presses and shoves, so many people and streets and lights and colors and interests: politics and music hall, business and yet also art, field gray, privy counselors, chansonettes, and right and left, and up and down, somewhere, very far away, the trenches, regiments storming over to attack, the dying, submarines, zeppelins, airplane squadrons, columns marching on muddy streets, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, victories; Riga, Constantinople, the Isonzo, Flanders, the Russian Revolution, America, the Anzacs and the poilus, the pacifists and the wild newspaper people. And all ending up in the half-darkened Friedrichstrasse, filled with people at night, unconquerable, never to be reached by Cossacks, Gurkhas, Chasseurs d'Afrique, Bersaglieris, and cowboys, still not yet dishonored, despite the prostitutes who pass by. If a revolution were to break out here, a powerful upheaval in this chaos, barricades on the Friedrichstrasse, or the collapse of the distant parapets, what a spark, how the mighty, inextricably complicated organism would crack, how like the Last Judgment! And yet we have experienced, have caused precisely this to happen in Liège, Brussels, Warsaw, Bucharest, even almost in Paris. That's the world war, all right.”
More quotes…