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Berlin in Lights: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler (1918-1937) Paperback – January 9, 2002

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Berlin in Lights: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler (1918-1937) + Journey to the Abyss + The Red Count: The Life and Times of Harry Kessler (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (January 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080213839X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802138392
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

"Were it not so tragic," confided Count Harry Kessler (1868-1937) in his diary in June 1932, "it would be grotesque." The inevitability of Hitler's ascendance had grown increasingly apparent, and the "Red Count," a publisher, art collector, and prominent Social Democrat, had reason for apprehension. Within a year, the Weimar Republic would give way to the Third Reich, and Kessler would flee to France, where he was to die without ever returning to his native Berlin. His diaries, which begin with the Armistice of 1918 and end with his death in 1937, form a lens through which the turbulent Weimar years come vibrantly to life. The Kaiser's abdication, the Spartacist Revolt, and Walther Rathenau's assassination are dissected here by an astute, if resigned, observer, yet readers will be equally impressed by his circle of friends: those who passed through his life include Albert Einstein, Bertolt Brecht, Andr Gide, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Virginia Woolf, and Erich Maria Remarque (whose All Quiet on the Western Front Kessler published), among others. Though occasionally disappointing in its omissionsDthe exile years are skimpy (there are no entries for 1934), and Kessler's homosexuality is revealed only in Ian Buruma's fine introductionDthe diaries are a welcome addition to any academic library.DRichard Koss, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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The signs were everywhere even if incremental.
There isn't a lot of French, and basic skills will serve you well, but it would have been easier for readers to see a footnote right at the bottom of the page.
I recommend this book most highly - and you will also want the earlier, larger volume covering the years up to 1918.
The Sceptical Chemist

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Max W. Hauser on January 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel, in Tom Lehrer's facetious 1964 tribute ballad _Alma,_ is credited with marrying most of the creative men in early 20th-century Europe. (Lehrer was ungenerous, not to Alma but to Europe, since some creative Europeans did live outside Vienna in those days.) In contrast, Harry Kessler's range of contacts, if less intimate, was mind-bogglingly wider. Easton, in his sweeping and eloquent new biography of Kessler (cited below), quotes an estimate that over 40000 names appear in Kessler's complete diary. That surpasses even Dumas's 37267 fictional characters, and Kessler's people were real. Kessler was a learned, aristocratic German diplomat and arts patron with international roots and upbringing, in touch with many leading figures of his day. This book is a portion of his diary, opening in 1918 just before the armistice, and lasting, like Kessler himself, until 1937. Something of a Pepys of inter-war Europe, therefore, though Kessler focuses on ideas, or people of ideas. Kessler observes concisely and often penetratingly the changes in Europe after the Great War, and many historical figures whom he meets either in Germany or during his travels and later exile. The book is thus peopled with politicians and artists from Rosa Luxemburg and Jozef Pilsudski to Diaghilev and Isadora to Erich Maria Remarque who, Kessler reports, knocked out _All Quiet on the Western Front_ in six weeks. Included also are some of that small club of celebrities that surface so reliably in New York book-review periodicals in recent decades (people like Virginia Woolf, the Sackville-Wests, and various Nabokovs; Scott and Zelda however are missing).
Which leads me to more on this edition, good and bad.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By George A. Grantham on February 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The translation of Kessler's memoirs entitled "Berlin in Lights" covering his life after 1918 is inferior to the new translation of his earlier life entitled "Journey to the Abyss". I can only hope that the biographer of Kessler, L.M. Easton who does the translation of Abyss will follow up with the period 1918 on. My mistake was reading To The Abyss first.

Berlin In Lights takes too much for granted. Assuming you know many minor personalities or events. It also, skips large portions of the memoirs as the translator feels an English language audience would not be interested. In addition to these faults (in my eyes) the translator then spends pages on events which truly can bore. If these were part of a more total program perhaps the reader would accept them. Having 2 pages for one year of Kessler's life and then 10+ pages of reparations negotiations is a bit much.

My last complaint would be the large sections of French some of it idiomatic which the translator assumes the reader knows.

If one reads "To The Abyss" and thinks they want to follow up, I do not recommend "Berlin In Lights". There may be other translations but when I sought one, this appeared to the be best available and it, as I now know was deficient. Would rather have kept my money and bought Easton's biography of Kessler and filled the last years in that way.

George A. Grantham
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
NB: This review is based on the German Kindle edition of this work.

This is history in slow motion, as a diary necessarily must be. The book will be of great interest to readers already familiar with the history of Germany between 1918 and 1937, though even they will often long for editorial footnotes identifying many of the persons and even some of the events to which Kessler refers. In this Kindle edition there is no such help; and it will certainly be too difficult to follow for anyone who has only a sketchy knowledge of the period.

This instalment of the diary (one-third of the total which began in 1880) opens with Kessler briefly being German ambassador in the new Poland before being expelled after just seven weeks under pressure from Polish nationalists.

He returned to Berlin in time to witness over several days the growing militancy of the Spartacists, their rebellion and its bloody suppression by the Freikorps in January 1919. He is outraged by the excesses of the military, which continued, with arbitrary murders and threats of murder, well into 1920.

He was rather a snob, inveighing against the vulgarity of petit-bourgeois taste and ideas, which he attributed to the Kaiser Wilhelm II, and indeed to most of the members of the Weimar government, whom he despised with aristocratic hauteur. He is vain, too - recording every compliment made to him and every "stormy applause" for his speeches. He has sympathy for working class idealists like Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, and he had many friends among pro-Spartacists. He was suspected by many people, at home and abroad, of being a Bolshevik. Though he declared himself a socialist, he was formally a member of the liberal DDP.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By northkona on May 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
See the earlier version titled "In the Twenties," translated by Charles Kessler (no relation to Harry Kessler), with Introduction by Otto Friedrich. It covers the same years. The Notes in "In the Twenties" are good, and provide context for some of the entries. As the Diary moves along, it gets better and better, with the last 10 years showing the alarm at what was happening to Germany's international reputation with the rise of Nazi fervor.
I did wonder why translations are not footnoted for the French quotes from conversations. That seems to me a poor decision. If you're going to translate the German, why not translate the French, at least as a footnote? There isn't a lot of French, and basic skills will serve you well, but it would have been easier for readers to see a footnote right at the bottom of the page. However, I was glad to see the original French in the text, it makes those writers' and artists' opinions stand out, it makes clear that they are French people speaking, not Brits, Germans, or some other nationality. Kessler and the Europeans he socialized with spoke a number of languages, so they could talk about everything from art to politics to social gossip.
I plan to read the earlier years of the diary as well as the newer "Abyss." I'm hooked.
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