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Thunder At Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914 Paperback – April 24, 2001

42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an astonishing work of literary energy and historical insight, the author of The Rothschilds brings us the backstage dynamics that preceded the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the deed that precipitated WW I. Morton captures both the elegant decadence of Emperor Franz Joseph's Vienna, and the potent spirits of those revolutionary thinkers who, all in Vienna at some time during the two years before the war, would blow away the past and create modernity. There were Stalin, Trotsky and Lenin; Freud and Jung; the glowering Hitler; Kafka, Wittgenstein and Karl Kraus; and a small band of Serb nationalists, one of whom fired the shot that catapulted Franz Joseph, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas into a war they didn't want but couldn't prevent, and that reduced them to puppets.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Like the author's earlier A Nervous Splendour: Vienna 1888-1889 ( LJ 11/15/79), which focused on the suicide of the Hapsburg Crown Prince Rudolph, this social history of the same city focuses on the events and personalities surrounding the assassination of the last Crown Prince, Franz Ferdinand. A remarkable procession of influential persons waltzed through Vienna during the two winter social seasons; some were already famous in their fields (Freud), others would only later attain powerful positions (Hitler). Extensively based on personal memoirs and contemporary periodicals, the work is less scholarly than Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower ( LJ 12/1/65) but adds a flavor which she omitted. It belongs in larger collections.
- Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vienna 1913/1914
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306810212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306810213
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on October 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
In the first pages of this book, author Frederic Morton reveals the reason he has such an interest in Austrian history. His grandfather died in World War I and his father came to the United States from Vienna. If you read books such as Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, you can't help but hate the Habsburg monarchy that ruled for centuries over Austria and much of Eastern Europe. The Austrians shamelessly mistreated their subjects, using divide and conquer strategies to keep their client states in line. The Austrians also looted the distant reaches of their vast holdings for Austrian benefit. Many of the difficulties found in the Balkans today can be traced to the inept government of the Austrian Empire. That's one view. The other can be found in this exquisitely majestic book. This text is not a panegyric to Habsburg rule, however. Rather, it is a tribute to the fabulous city of Vienna during the waning days of empire, when World War I was looming on the horizon of time.
Vienna is presented as an international city that attracted numerous historical figures. According to Morton, within a period of months Vienna was home to Adolf Hitler, Josef Broz (known to history as Marshal Tito), Uncle Joe Stalin, Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud. These characters lived out their own private paths to destiny within blocks of each other. Morton really makes these people come alive with his narrative. We see Hitler in a homeless hostel where he has his own personal chair that no one dares to sit in and occasionally launches into oratorical tirades against Jews and foreigners. Tito works at a car factory and likes to scope out chicks on the weekends (which is much easier to do when you don't have a chest full of medals!).
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on June 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Focusing on just two climactic years, 1913 - 1914, Frederic Morton recreates Vienna in all its splendor during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The vibrant social, intellectual, and cultural life of Vienna is examined within the context of the seething nationalism of the Balkans, the Machiavellian intrigue among the political rulers of the European nations and Russia, and the human frailties of the seemingly larger-than-life national leaders, which assure that the twilight of the empire will eventually be overtaken by darkness.

Rigorously selective in his choice of detail, Morton brings to life the varied activities of a broad cross-section of Viennese society, and reproduces the intellectual milieu which eventually leads to the rise of some of the most influential leaders of the twentieth century--Trotsky, Stalin, Adler, Freud, Jung, Lenin, Hitler, Tito, and a host of others, all of whom are part of Vienna life.

Morton's seriousness of purpose and his scholarship are undeniable, yet his primary contribution here, it seems to me, is his ability to make historical personages come to life, to make the reader feel that they were real, breathing humans with both virtues and frailties, and not the cardboard characters one finds so often in history books. Vienna, as we see it here, has a real heart, albeit one that beats in 3/4 time.

From the masquerades and balls held by all classes of society, to the revolutionary movements, innumerable newspapers and pamphlets, lively coffee houses, and seemingly endless games of political maneuvering, one feels the ferment and activity which must lead, eventually, to change.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 21, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent and lovely book that reads almost like a novel, it is also an alarming book if you read it, as I did, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The diplomatic and military blunders that produced World War I seem, at this moment, to provide a kind of blueprint for starting a war that no one really wants to start. Some of the correspondences between then and now are startling--for example, the super-ultimatum given to the offending country with the expectation that the terms cannot be met. Altogether I would rate this book higher than Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, though, to be fair, Tuchman's book is more of a military history and gives only a tiny look at the opening shots of WWI--the murder of the Archduke who was the heir to the Austrian throne--whereas Morton's book establishes the Archduke Franz Ferdinand as a major character in the narrative, then reveals that the Archduke was (ironically) a pacifist who was trying to avert a war in Europe, and then places the Archduke's story in the context of the larger story of Vienna, Austria and Europe. One of the many pleasures that the book offers is an evocative look at the old, whimisical royalty-besotted Vienna just as it was begetting the new Europe--Freud, Trotsky, and Stalin all figure in the story of pre-WWI Vienna as do a number of other major political and artistic figures. Vienna was a prosperous, beautiful, pleasure-loving city that perversely found a way to start a horrific and self-destroying war.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Something is missing. The book was a fantastic read. I would have given it 5 stars and a "Bravo!" - but some things are not mentioned that are needed. I read, elsewhere, about the "blank check" from the Germans that encouraged the Austrians to start a war with the Serbs. This would lead to something bigger for the Germans, against the French. Also, my previous readings indicated that Tisza and the Hungarians were not interested in war and urged the Austrians to offer, at least, an ultimatum. The Austrians, then came up with the "ultimatum/non-ultimatum". The author gives the appearance that Germany was passive in the whole situation and did not want to get involved. No mention is made of the "blank check". The only mention Tisza gets is that Franz Ferdinand did not like him and that the Hungarians abused the Serbs within their land. Nothing was mentioned, in particular, of the Tri-Monarchy that Franz Ferdinand had thought-up. I feel that the author left out some important things.
Other than these points, I thought the book was a really good read to learn about some really sinister people running around Vienna before the outbreak of war. Great information was presented on Princip and, of course, the relationship between Franz Ferdinand and Franz Joesph.
I will read further for information about the above things not mentioned in this book. 4 3/4 stars.
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