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Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century
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Destruction Was My Beatrice: Dada and the Unmaking of the Twentieth Century

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  24 reviews
In 1916, as World War I raged around them, a group of bohemians gathered at a small cabaret in Zurich, Switzerland. After decorating the walls with art by Picasso and other avant-garde artists, they embarked on a series of extravagant performances. Three readers simultaneously recited a poem in three languages; a monocle-wearing teenager performed a spell from New Zealand; ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Basic Books
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Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an unexpected book. I literally found it on our porch, a gift from Joel. The subject itself was a fuzzy footnote of European history and even that was largely Tzara, who I always imagined in some abstract cafe hectoring the somber Lenin and perhaps buying a drink for James Joyce.

I stepped aside from my Greek Project and plunged within. The initial Dadaist episode in Zurich is remarkable as an event but I am less convinced as a movement. One member quipped in a manifesto, I am opposed i
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read on the beginning of Dadaism. Rasula truly brings the individuals to life in ways I have never read in any other book concerning Dadaism. Characteristics of both the human element as well as the surroundings in which things occurred are clearly explored.

A must read for those interested in this art movement that can speak to even our time.
C Bennett
Apr 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Not enough focus is given in Rasula's book to the women of Dada: Beatrice Wood (an intimate of Duchamp), The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Hannah Höch, Emmy Hennings, and Sophie Tau(e)ber (Arp). They never DID get sufficient attention in the patriarchal society of the earlier 20th century, but the author should've been more aware of them because they've been coming to the fore since the 1990's. On the whole, I found the book interesting, though I kept looking for a reference to Beatrice ...more
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, non-fiction
I enjoyed this book enormously, or most of it, anyway. Dada has always fascinated me (I have just started reading a book on Picabia which I purchased in 1970, for instance), but for the first time, I think I understand what it was. I give Rasula full credit for this, and for creating a decidedly scholarly book which is surprisingly readable.

While Dada was a hugely influential movement, it really lasted for only about ten years directly following World War I. It was never really organized. People
Fluffy Singler
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I will have a full review of this book coming soon to

Magic Frigren
Great overview of Dada. I enjoyed it very much. Some people have called it dry/ dense but I thought it was an easy read. I would have liked some more focus on the women of dada but other then that I loved it.
Daniel Farabaugh
Aug 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
I ended up skimming much of the end of this book. It became numbing minutia after a while chronicling every area it which there was a hint of DaDa. When it was dealing with the larger areas where the movement blossomed but overall too dry.
This book was a defining moment for me. I read this book at 19-20 years of age and I was mesmerized. Performance art is an amazing, misunderstood, and underfunded modality. It was wonderful seeing the history of this type of performance along side of visual arts.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Author Jed Rasula here should be commended for taking on the no means small feat of trying to put together a history of Dada - for multiple reasons. For one, it is difficult to define Dada at all, which quickly becomes clear within this book. It was a movement of art and literature and poetry and performance on one hand, but is simultaneously an anti movement, featuring anti art and anti poetry, and also seems to be greater than any one aesthetic sensibility of trend - is it a philosophy too? A ...more
Erick Mertz
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, history, non-fiction
I hate to say that this was kind of a boring read. I don't know if that has to do with Jed Rasula's writing, or my overestimation of how exciting reading about Dada's history would be, but I found myself putting this book down much faster than most. Needed more pictures. Felt like the linkage to WWI was interesting, a period of particular historic interest, but I felt myself wanting much more. ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Okay, I didn't really finish this so much as gave up. The subject matter is fascinating. The writing? Not so much. ...more
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read, art
Everything you wanted to know about Dada, and then some.
David Steele
May 22, 2021 rated it liked it
Meticulously researched. Wide-ranging and packed with atmosphere and insight. Just the right balance. An excellent reference source, but highly enjoyable as a narrative history.
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Deeply researched and with an excellent command of art's inner language, this book was often fascinating and brightly illuminating, though admittedly at times it was also a bit frustrating.... all but the well initiated will risk getting lost in the dense forest of sometimes maddening detail, replete with innumerable digressions and side stories, some perhaps better left in the Schwitters-bin.... yet one exits with an "impressionistic" sense of Dada and its various hotbeds and purveyors... one c ...more
Fraser Sherman
Nov 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I think I'd rate this higher if I were coming fresh to the subject—I know a fair amount about Dada, and a lot of the added detail was more than I turned out to be interested in (which isn't Rasula's fault.This is a good study of the quirky events, eccentric arts and personalities that made up Dada in its brief life (as Rasula notes, most of the creators moved on to Surrealism, Constructivism or an individual path), but I think I found Matthew Gale's Dada ans Surrealism a stronger work (and also ...more
bibliotekker Holman
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
An engaging look at one of the last century's genre bursting art movements. Banksy might not exist if there had not been Dada first. The many unique characters involved in this avant-garde revolution are just as interesting as the art they produced. As Tristan Tzara wrote of Kurt Schwitters: "He is among those who have decapitated the haloed capital A from the word art and have placed this word again on the level of human manifestations". ...more
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This art movement is hard to understand and so deep if you get a glimpse into the artists' minds. The Dadaists were reacting to WWI, propelled into post war Europe and then attacked by the Nazi regime. With destruction all around them, they looked toward a compassionate, meaningful universe - perhaps embodied by Dante's goddess, Beatrice. Or not. ...more
Theremin Poisoning
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book.
Dean Wilcox
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A lovely read about a chaotic anti-movement. Some familiar stories, some new connections. Well researched and documented. A nice companion to Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces. ...more
Melanie  H
Aug 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Sadly, there is nothing absurd about this book. Guess I wasn't in the mood for an academic treatise on the topic. ...more
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read. One of our local Ojai artists dated 2 dada artists in the 1920s. We've heard her stories and always wondered about that period. The book explains it in a fun way. ...more
Peter Learn
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Did I like it yes no mostly yes hurray for reference to Firesign Theatre
Aug 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Readable narrative history of the Dada movement, but not much here that hasn't been covered elsewhere & no fresh interpretation of the familiar anecdotes. ...more
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