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1913: The Year Before the Storm

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,088 ratings  ·  398 reviews
"An absolute gem of a book." --"The Observer
"Just before one of its darkest moments came the twentieth century's most exciting year . . .
It was the year Henry Ford first put a conveyer belt in his car factory, and the year Louis Armstrong first picked up a trumpet. It was the year Charlie Chaplin signed his first movie contract, and Coco Chanel and Prada opened their fir
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Melville House (first published 2012)
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3.80  · 
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 ·  3,088 ratings  ·  398 reviews

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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
Jul 01, 2013 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
Joseph Spuckler
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Audiobook through Kindle Unlimited.

An interesting look at the world before everything changed. Some politicians, psychiatrists, artists, and writers are showcased in this book. Snippets of their lives make up the month to month chapters like what is happening between Freud and Jung, Duchamp, Kafka's attempt at a relationship, and Stalin and Hitler passing each other in the park. Chevy Chase should be credited with the monthly update that the Mona Lisa is still missing. It seems like a personal v
Will Ansbacher
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
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
1913 is a history book unlike every other one I ever read. As the title says it is about the year 1913. There is a chapter for each month but the history is not told as one would except it, relating political events and stating how they lead to other events, in this the Great War. 1913 uses a different approach: It is more of a cultural history, but not in the ordinary sense. Different episodes from the lives of important artists, authors, editors etc. and sometimes also political characters are ...more
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2013 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.

Diane S ☔
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
Jim Coughenour
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, europeanhistory
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
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
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
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On November 20, Kafka went to the cinema and wept.
Apr 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, wwi
I've read a fair amount of the run-up to WWI but always from the English perspective. This was a snapshot of cultural life in Germany and Austria-Hungary with lots of players I don't know much about ... now I need to do some more reading!
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
You have to be a serious expert on the history of early 20th Century German art and literature to really appreciate this. To really be effective it should contain more reproductions of paintings etc. (although the good thing about Google is you can find most of it online). In fact I was Googling quite often which is why I did not give this four stars. I was kind of fascinated although I felt like I was at a party where everyone was in on all the jokes and gossip except me (a lot histrionics and ...more
Aug 13, 2013 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
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Cindy III
I learned about well known figures of Austro-Hungary, Germany and other parts of Europe, some cameo appearances by U.S. There were people who I knew like Freud, Franz Ferdinand, Picasso, Kafka, Jung, but lots of people I didn't know mostly artists and intellectuals (Karl Kraus, Kirchner, Kokoschka, Kessler, Heinrich Mann). This was my first anecdotal history book. It had enough information that kept my interest although I sometimes confused people with similar names.
I chose to read this book bec
A wonderful book. Composed of anecdotes and snippets from the lives the those writers and painters and poets that were current in 1913. They are all here. Some you know and some that are new. Their antics, loves, pains, disappointments are documented in the wonderful, exciting neurasthenic year before Europe exploded and everything changed for ever.

Completely gripping. Extremely well written. I need to read it in the original German now.
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This wasn't exactly the book I had in mind when I took it from the shelf, but if you are interested in the persons driving the development (and dramas) of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century artistic '-isms' (cubism, modernism, futurism, etc) then Illies's book should hold your attention throughout.
Anastasiya Mozgovaya
a fascinating book!
could someone write similar ones about every single year after that, please?
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
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some parts were more engaging, other less so (especially towards the end), mostly depending on how well acquainted with events described I was. I found it to be a bit too much German-centric - most of the historical figures were either German, Austrian or French - but it's understandable given the author's origin. Overall, it was really fascinating to spectate history in the making, so to speak, and to see a little bit behind the curtains.
George Matysek
You can't ask for a more dynamic opening two paragraphs than what Florian Illies provides in "1913: The Year before the Storm."

In the first second of 1913, Illies writes, a gunshot rings out through the dark night. Police arrest a 12-year-old reveler named Louis Armstrong who "had wanted to see in the New Year in New Orleans with a stolen revolver." The gunman is sent to the Colored Waifs' Home for Boys, where his unruly behavior continues.

Out of desperation, the institution's director hands the
Oct 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The concept behind this book is great. Take a year, assemble random snippets of history that are mostly loosely connected by group of people (largely artists of some form or another) and create an engaging if disjointed narrative.
It's flaw, if it is one, is the same as its strength: brevity. While engaging the entries offer little or no context (which is the point, I know), but for readers without a strong or even rudimentary knowledge of German history it's tough to be engaged with the figures
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-one
An interesting narrative on the cusp of modernity and the beginning of disaster (i.e. WW I – the war to end all wars; this statement in itself too ironic). 1913 is loaded with fascinating anecdotes of love, literature, art, medicine & everyday happenings during the year – focused on the biggies: Berlin, Wien (Vienna), Prag, Munich, Paris & some others (the focus is Europe – but so what?).

Following find a litany of included topical names: Altenberg, Lasker-Schuler, Corinth, Kokoschka, Mu
Christoph Fischer
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“1913: The Year Before the Storm” by Florian Illies is an excellent collection of archival material, anecdotes, brief news items and interesting stories about the twelve months of 1913 and the small and bigger events and happenings that made up the year for people who lived it.
With a big emphasis on literature and art it offers us glimpses of the lives of Kafka, Rilke, the Mann Brothers, Camille Claudel, Freud, Stalin, Hitler and some Royalty. Wars, love letters, political developments, art thef
Katja Vartiainen
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, fiction
I read this book in English. It hasn't been added yet on Goodreads. It's called: 1913- A Year before the Storm.
It's based an literary , written facts about mostly artists and psychologist living in the German-Austrian-Hungarian area. It's been slightly fictionalized to make a sort of novel. The book s divided into chapter according to the months of the year. An interesting read. A bit nostalgic, a bit of glamorizing the bohemian life. We peak into the lives of Kafka,Freud, Thomas Mann, and other
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2015 Reading Chal...: 1913: The Year Before The Storm by Florian Illies 1 12 Feb 03, 2015 11:09AM  

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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.
“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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