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1913: The Year Before the Storm

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3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,601 Ratings  ·  260 Reviews
A witty yet moving narrative worked up from sketched documentary traces and biographical fragments, 1913 is an intimate cultural portrait 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;
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Melville House (first published 2012)
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Kalliope




This is a book to be read in 2013, as a Centennial celebration of that year during which the arts lived in great excitement before they boiled over. There is still time to celebrate the succession of events, episode and snippets that peppered that year of aesthetic fertility.

Illies has traced the activities of the players month by month jumping from anecdote to anecdotes occurring at about the same time. Reading this book therefore reads like a Merry-Go-Round in which colourful figures turn in f
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·Karen·
Aug 08, 2013 ·Karen· rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1913: Thomas Mann's drama Fiorenza is a debâcle, to his eternal chagrin; Kafka's marriage proposal to Felice is a debâcle, to his eternal relief; Hugo von Hofmannsthal sees nothing but debâcle in Austrian high aristocracy, total cultural bankruptcy and Vienna at the mercy of the rabble; and Rilke has toothache.

'Die Brücke' is full of tension, but holds until May, Matisse and Picasso admire each other's work and Hitler paints chocolate box water colours of famous tourist sights in Vienna and Müni
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Bennet
Such an endearingly irreverent yet empathic account, and what a year! I just love this book and hope you do too. The following random excerpts should give you the gist.

(February) And so the capital of the modern age anno 1913 is Vienna. Its star players are Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Adolf Loos, Karl Kraus, Otto Wagner, Hugo von Hoffmannsthal, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Georg Trakl, Arnold Schonberg, and Oskar Kokoschka, to name but a few. Here the battles raged: ab
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Cedric
Feb 04, 2013 Cedric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ein-Satz-Review

Beschränkter Horizont (viel Berlin, Wien, ein Happen Paris und zwei Sätze Amerika - ausserdem nur Kunst mit einem Löffelchen Politik), klischierte Künstlervorstellung (Trakl, ach, schreibt sich zu Tode, Thomas Mann, deutscher Bourgeois, feiert seinen Erfolg), kumpelhaft-augenzwinkender Erzählstil und ranzige Rückgriffe auf sexuelle Besonderheiten (Kokoschka, Trakl, C.G.Jung), dies alles kann der Missgünstige bemäkeln, aber Hand aufs Herz: Wäre Geschichtsunterricht je so unterhalts
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Ludmilla
Jul 06, 2015 Ludmilla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
çok hoş bir kitap. büyük savaşın başlamasından önce o devrin bilindik isimlerinin neler yaptığını ay ay, parça parça ve kısaca anlatıyor. kah kokoshka ile alma aşkını anlatıyor, kah trakl'ın adım adım çöküşünü, kafka-felice ilişkisini ve mann'ın büyülü dağ'ı yazmaya karar verişini... özellikle biraz meraklı biriyseniz - ben değilim, ama ona rağmen tanımadığım resimleri okurken googleladım, estetiğe doydum - bayağı bir şey öğreniyorsunuz.

kitabın tek kötü yanı daha önce de söylediğim özensizlikle
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Hans-Peter Merz
Eine Fleißarbeit? Oder doch eine beeindruckende Gesamtschau eines Jahres, das von großer Bedeutung für die europäische Geistesgeschichte ist? Illies hat auf jeden Fall eine Menge an Material zusammengetragen, das er witzig, sarkastisch oder auch manchmal mit einem sardonischen Lächeln präsentiert.

Was bekommen wir auf rund 300 Seiten angeboten? Eine nach Kalendermonaten gegliederte Aufstellung der Reisen, Handlungen, Nervenzusammenbrüche, Liebschaften, Trennungen und Produktionen der Großen der M
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Ian
Feb 03, 2014 Ian rated it really liked it
This is a portrait of The World in 1913, the world in this context being writers, artists and intellectual figures in Europe. The book was written by a German guy so it is a bit more centred on Vienna, Munich and Berlin than elsewhere, though I think that is where the action was back then anyway (with some stuff also going on in Paris etc.). In some ways there is a certain comic nostalgia to this, as we follow all these people going about their work, their feuds, their love affairs and their neu ...more
Laura
Jul 27, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Carey, Gundula
Recommended to Laura by: Themis-Athena
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Florian Illies's impressionistic portrait of a society that is about to change forever.


Jim Coughenour
Jan 10, 2014 Jim Coughenour rated it really liked it
Shelves: europeanhistory, art
I started this book on the last day of 2013; it turned out to be a great way to end the year. This book was originally published in German, so it's no great surprise that most of its figures are from Berlin, Vienna and Prague. Some will be familiar to English readers (Kafka, Mann, Picasso); others like Oskar Kokoschka, "the ugliest man in Vienna," less so.

In one respect, this book is a merry survey of the birth of modernism; in another it's all foreshadowing – the horrors of 1914 are right aroun
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Penny
Sep 07, 2015 Penny rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww1
Bit of a strange book - it's a 'history' of 1913 told month by month, but it's history told through the lives of various members of the (mainly) artistic groups centred in Germany and Austria.

I'd never heard of some of the characters so I was forever googling - and Illes certainly has some fascinating tales to tell! I definitely want to read more about some of the people he writes about.

There's a lot of wry humour throughout, but also a sense of foreboding due to what is to come in 1914. We of
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Will
Sep 06, 2015 Will rated it really liked it
Imagine a monthly magazine devoted to, not the vapid celebs of Hollywood, but the best-known artists and writers of Europe (plus a few from England, various intellectuals and scientists, and some hangers-on). Every month you’d dive into the details, and emerge knowing everything that was worth knowing. And you’d be further elevated by the knowledge that it wasn’t even gossip, because the author had access to their actual diaries and letters.

So this is 1913; it’s fluff of course, but entertaining
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Katrin
Jan 24, 2013 Katrin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Die Idee ist gut, die Zeit um 1913 interessiert mich sowieso sehr, der Autor ist nett ... aber trotzdem hat mich das Buch enttäuscht. Erstens, weil es nicht so originell ist, wie ich dachte. Er hat halt akribisch alles rausgesucht, was in dem Jahr passierte, und es in kleinen Anekdoten hintereinander geschrieben, vieles als immer wiederkehrender Running Gag: die verschwundene Mona Lisa, Alma Mahler und ihre Beziehungen, der junge Hitler, etc. Das ist ganz schön, und er hat auch manchmal witzige ...more
Diane S ⛄
Dec 27, 2013 Diane S ⛄ rated it liked it
3.5 Quite a clever construct, using short narratives or biographical information. the author pieces together the world using notable personages as a guide to the world in the year before the Great War was fought.

So many interesting tidbits, including the Lutz, the skater jump, this was apparently the year that this was first performed by a man named Lutz of course. A young Hitler recently rejected from art school, Stalin, Lenin, the theft of the Mona Lisa. Getrude Stein, Picasso, who had to prov
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Sally
Dec 20, 2012 Sally rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man sollte Vorsicht walten lassen, wenn Feuilletonisten das Buch eines der ihren so über den grünen Klee loben. „Brilliant“… und was las man da nicht alles… Das Buch verpackt Geschichte in überschaubare Häppchen, ist mit Fleiß recherchiert und geschrieben in nettem Plauderstil. Zweifellos gut lesbar und anfangs kurzweilig, aber man ermüdet doch angesichts des nicht enden wollenden Stroms an oberflächlichen Anekdötchen und Geschichtchen, die sich nicht wirklich zu einem tieferen Bild verbinden, w ...more
Tamara
This was fun. I don't know if it adds up to anything much, but it is fun. The weaving together of little details and anecdotes of the lives of artists (and Stalin) scattered across central Europe, month by month, adds up to something that feels almost novelistic itself. Wry, semi-sympathetic, semi-condescending, and not very pretentious, I think it does manage to give something of a sense of the place, at least for this particular class of people. Better than the other 1913, though not as good a ...more
Peter
Aug 29, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sachbücher
14.08.2014 Ich wollte nur die erste Seite lesen und jetzt bin ich auf Seite 41....
27.08.2014 Sehr amüsantes Buch und eine unglaubliche Aufgabe für den Autor. Nicht so sehr die Informationen, Geschichterln usw. die sich im Buch finden,sondern die Streichungen wären interessant. Ein Vielfaches musste Illies weglassen - und das war sicher das Schwierigste beim Schreiben des Buches. Die Frage was fällt weg - furchtbar für den Autor. Der Ton ist amüsant es wird nie langweilig im Gegenteil. Das Buch m
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Will
Jul 16, 2014 Will rated it really liked it
On November 20, Kafka went to the cinema and wept.
Karen Mardahl
(Read in Danish, but review in English.)

I started this back in July and finally finished it now in February. It wasn't hard to read. I think the problem was that I thought I should read it so it became a chore. The structure is intriguing. This is a look at the world - mostly Europe, and often mostly German-speaking areas - month by month throughout the year 1913. Each month, the author looks at what is happening to certain historical and cultural figures. For example, at one point, he tells us
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Antje
Der Autor hat zweifellos keine Zeit und Mühen gescheut, diverse Biographien und Tagebücher zu studieren, um uns einen Einblick in das Geschehen des kulturellen und gesellschaftlichen Lebens im Jahre 1913 zu geben. Die Geschehnisse sind zum größten Teil in Deutschland und Österreich angesiedelt. Hierbei treffen wir immer wieder auf Kafka, Rilke, Brecht, Freud, Th. Mann, Trakl, Benn, Musil, Picasso, Proust, Kaiser Wilhelm, Kaiser Franz Joseph und dessen Thronfolger Franz Ferdinand sowie auch auf S ...more
Becky
Aug 15, 2013 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at 1913, seen month by month and pretty much day by day through minor events in the lives of some of the greatest names of the age. Basically we hear about social inconveniences such as trouble at one of Gertrude Stein's dinner parties, or issues Kafka was having at home. This is an unusual way of presenting a history and did add to my understanding of the cultural life of 1913. The book is heavily tilted towards the German speaking world with the majority of the entries comi ...more
Matthias
Jun 30, 2013 Matthias rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Klischeevorstellungen von damaligen Künstlerexistenzen (ach! diese armen Künstler, man muss sie ja irgendwie behüten, diese possierlichen Wesen, seufz seufz laberfasel), absolut eurozentrisches Weltbild (Österreich schien nur aus Wien zu bestehen, Deutschland nur aus Berlin, Frankreich nur aus Paris, andere Teile Europas oder gar der Welt Fehlanzeige). Kaum politische Fakten, anekdotische Versatzstücke zu Kunstwerken, die einem wenig bringen außer ein bisschen Unterhaltung, keine Hintergründe. E ...more
Kay Sachse
Ein Jahr vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg passiert die (deutsche) Kulturszene noch einmal Revue und präsentiert sich in all ihrer Vielfältigkeit, in ihren Gegensätzen und Widersprüchen. Ob große Künstler wie Thomas Mann oder kleine Lichter wie Marika Rökk, sie finden in ihrem Sein und Werden, in ihren persönlichen Befindlichkeiten einen Platz in diesem faszinierenden Panoptikum dieses Vorabends der ersten großen Katastrophe des 20. Jahrhunderts. Ein anregender Bogen, der viele Leser verdient und zum Auf ...more
beentsy
Dec 02, 2015 beentsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-done
Fantastic. Like sitting in a coffee shop trading gossip with a rather catty but very in the know friend. Meanwhile, the world is grinding forward to the first world war and all its horrors.
Aglaja
Jan 27, 2016 Aglaja rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Ein gewinnbringendes Buch, das mir im nach hinein mehr gefällt als während des Lesens :-)

Beim Lesen habe ich mich immer mal wieder gefragt ob ich die endlosen Briefe von Kafka an Felice lesen muss, ob ich wirklich so Vieles über die Beziehung zwischen Kokoschka & Alma Mahler-Werfel wissen muss, was es mit all den Namen, die nur nebenbei erwähnt werden auf sich hat usw. Teilweise hatte ich den Eindruck, eine Sammlung von Anekdoten aus dem Kunstmilieu des Jahres 1913 zu lesen. Es hat mir auch
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Guido
Feb 28, 2014 Guido rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zo start ‘1913’. ‘Januari. Dit is de maand waarin Hitler en Stalin elkaar tijdens een wandeling in het Schlosspark van Schönbrunn ontmoeten, Thomas Mann bijna als homo ontmaskerd en Franz Kafka bijna gek van liefde wordt. Er kruipt een kat bij Sigmund Freud op de sofa. Het is erg koud, de sneeuw knerpt onder je schoenen. Else Lasker-Schüler zit aan de grond, wordt verliefd op Gottfried Benn, ontvangt een paardenbriefkaart van Franz Marc, maar noemt Gabriele Münter een niksnut. Ernst Ludwig Kirch ...more
Keith
Four days from now, as I write this, the one hundredth anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife will be observed. That shooting in Sarajevo, an act of terrorism that truly changed the world, erupted, for reasons still being debated, into a general European war. The publishing industry has, unsurprisingly, released a large number of new histories of the war. Many of these are military histories canvassing the tactics and strategy, or lack of, that determined the h ...more
Joanna
Jul 09, 2014 Joanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jak to się czyta! Kupiłam na plażę, przeczytałam jeszcze w pociągu. Ta książka to opis fermentu myślowo-towarzyskiego w rok przed końcem świata, gdy kultura święciła swój złoty wiek - miesiąc po miesiącu. Katar Rilkego miesza się z zerwaniem Freuda z Jungiem, których wiązała "jedynie cienka nić dawniej przeżytych rozczarowań", Matisse "wśród amerykańskiej publiczności uchodzi za największego prymitywa, co zwykle jest najlepszym dowodem jakości na długie lata", Strawiński powoduje bójki w filharm ...more
Shawn
Apr 18, 2015 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Covering the year month by month in entries ranging in size from a few lines to a couple of pages, the book concentrates on the arts and on the German-speaking world, although there are some forays into the political (Hitler, Stalin, Wilhelm II) and the more broadly intellectual (Freud and Jung, Wittgenstein). Visual artists and writers (almost exclusively German language) account for the great majority of entries, but music isn't entirely neglected.

Just a bit too much emphasis on the love lives
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Nene La Beet
Jeg elskede denne bog. Og det på trods af at jeg måtte Google en stor del af de forfattere, malere og politiske personligheder, der omtales i den. Men hvor konstant uvidenhedsgoogling ellers kan føles irriterende eller endda ydmygende, så følte jeg her, at jeg blev klogere og klogere og fik større og større indsigt i en (for mig) forsømt kultur - den tyske. Jeg er fx helt høj over at have mødt en håndfuld tyske expressionistiske malere, som jeg aldrig havde hørt om og over at have lært en masse ...more
Val
Nov 28, 2014 Val rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, byt-ww1
1913 was an exciting year for anyone interested in art, poetry, literature, architecture, music, ballet, theatre, film, photography, philosophy or psychoanalysis. Florian Illies is interested in all of them, and in who amongst the various artists, poets, authors, etc. was having sex with whom. Many of his artistic luminaries were neurasthenic hypochondriacs and he tends to poke fun at them.
He has an engaging writing style and he makes his subject appealing. His own preferences and opinions show
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2015 Reading Chal...: 1913: The Year Before The Storm by Florian Illies 1 9 Feb 03, 2015 11:09AM  
  • The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914
  • Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One
  • 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War
  • In Times of Fading Light
  • Thunder At Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914
  • The Red Prince
  • Ostende - 1936, Sommer der Freundschaft
  • Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918
  • The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
  • Perilous Question: Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832
  • Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe
  • The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War
  • Sand
  • The North: (And Almost Everything In It)
  • Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends
  • Das war ich nicht
  • Ich und Kaminski
  • A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire
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Author Florian Illies has worked as culture editor for major German newspapers and magazines, and is a co-founder of "Monopol" a magazine for art, literature and lifestyle.
More about Florian Illies...

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“Het moet trouwens toch maar eens afgelopen zijn met de 'moderniteit' in dit jaar - dat is zo'n rekbaar begrip, door tijdgenoten en latere generaties telkens anders geïnterpreteerd en door iedere generatie steeds weer in een ander tijdsgewricht geplaatst, dat het eigenlijk helemaal niet geschikt is om de ontzaglijke niet-gelijktijdige gelijktijdigheid die het jaar 1913 vooral kenmerkt naar behoren te schetsen.” 2 likes
“Vroeg naar bed gaan - dat vonden de immer onuitgeslapen pioniers van de moderne kunst het moedigst denkbare gevecht tegen depressie, drank, zinloze verstrooiing en de voortstormdende tijd.” 2 likes
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