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1913: The Year Before the Storm by [Illies, Florian]
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1913: The Year Before the Storm Kindle Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Length: 277 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for 1913

"A fascinating new structure of writing... With exceptional wit and understanding, Illies shows the societal and cultural changes propelling man toward modern art, new thought processes and war."

"An utterly delicious treat or an ideal present for anyone even mildly interested in 20th-century art, music and literature....a sexy, comic and occasionally heartbreaking soap opera.... an irresistible book, excellently translated and packed with factoids and surprising encounters."
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post 

"Illies’s stylish evocation of 1913 is thrilling entertainment for those who have heard it all before but wish to experience—one more time, perhaps—the bleary-eyed ecstasy that is the result of staying up all night reading a book in one sitting."
The Weekly Standard

“Interactive and full of vigorous energy as moments intertwine, and connections one rarely contemplates in the same context are finally connected... With confidence the text reverberates through the following years by offering a new perspective on the roots of the 20th century... A welcome presence on any book shelf."

“The rich range of subjects, the vibrancy of the writing, here translated by Whiteside and Searle, and the intimate details of the biographies all make this a fast-paced and engrossing read… Highly recommended.”
Library Journal,

“Already an international bestseller, German author Florian Illies’s 1913: The Year Before the Storm is an absolute gem of a book. His snapshot approach to the year, recorded month by month, is the most original historical account I’ve come across . . . Illies’ genius turn of phrase, beautifully retained by Shaun Whiteside and Jamie Lee Searle’s elegant translation, can be found throughout . . . The entries read like history’s footnotes, but as anyone who’s read Freud knows, the footnotes always tell the best story.” —Lucy Scholes, The Observer
“An entertaining and illuminating study.” —Shirley Whiteside, The Independent
“A hugely enjoyable idiosyncratic month-by-month narrative, in which the frenzy of artistic activity in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and Trieste is conveyed with vigour and humour.” —Juliet Nicolson, The Daily Telegraph

“A vivid, richly textured book that chronicles a world crackling with talent, energy and foreboding. The pace and scale of activity is at times breathtaking . . . Illies’ talent is to weave all this together in a way that keeps the reader with him.” —The Financial Times

“This highly entertaining month-by-month account of 1913 . . . is rich in detail, humour and vivid pen portraits . . . 1913 is the best possible holiday read—or gift—as it is so enjoyable, yet the breadth of information and astute insight will prevent one feeling guilty of indulgence.” —Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

“Illies is as astute a researcher as he is an observer of the zeitgeist . . . Reads like something out of a magic realist novel.”The Guardian

“Illies shapes his material not as a scholar, but as a wordsmith, as a story-teller with a strong sense for dramatic effect and composition . . . The most enjoyable book I’ve read in years.” Die Welt

About the Author

Florian Illies is a German journalist who has worked for major European newspapers and magazines and cofounded the art magazine Monopol. He is the author of four previous bestselling books, which have sold more than 1 million copies. 1913 is his first book to be translated into English.
Shaun Whiteside’s translations include Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy and Robert Musil’s The Confusions of Young Törless. Jamie Lee Searle’s recent translations include works by Ursula Poznanski, Frank Schatzing, and Dora Heldt.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4833 KB
  • Print Length: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (October 29, 2013)
  • Publication Date: October 29, 2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,448 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is divided into the 12 months of 1913, and each month has dozens of sections, each section ranging from one sentence to a few pages in length. The sections jump back and forth from one historical figure to another. Although I found some of the book's anecdotes interesting or amusing, I found the book overall highly tedious, to the point that toward the end I started skimming. Given that 13 of the 20 reviewers who preceded me gave the book five stars, most of them obviously felt differently. Whether you like this style of writing is simply a matter of taste.

But this book is not a serious work of history. It is an entertainment (for those who find this sort of thing entertaining). It has no footnotes, endnotes, or index. It also has much that seems semi-fictionalized. I don't mean that its basic facts about historical figures are fictionalized; rather, I refer to sentences such as (referring to the 24-year-old Hitler), "A heavy black strand of hair keeps falling into his face, so he flings it back into place with a frantic jerk of his head." Or, "Rilke sits in Paris, thinking distractedly about summer and autumn in Germany." Or, "Franz Kafka is sitting in his hotel room, gloomy weather outside, he kneads his hands, stares at the door in the hope that a messenger may come, and stares out of the window in the hope that an angel might."

I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with the sentences I just quoted. Again, it's a matter of taste. I just want potential readers to know what sort of book this is.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rarely is a book about a historical era so pleasurable; rarely does it give you the sense of immediacy and intimacy I found in "1913." It humanizes the greatest modernist artists and creative spirits of the early 20th century and highlights their personal relationships with a day-to-day feel that is involving and seductive. Readers feels like they are looking over Kafka's shoulder or having coffee with the Montmartre artists of the day. Unlike any other work, it's in a genre of its own. Irony, humor, compassion, perspective, and a great sense of drama propel it forward. An irresistible read, as light as it is powerful, especially for those familiar with the art of the times and its impact on the following century.
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Format: Hardcover
1913 is a nonfiction history book that I didn't expect to be so spectacular! Classical music concerts inciting pandemonium and near-riots. Mervyn O'Gorman's incredible autochrome photographs (no photos in the book, just enticing descriptions which made me look them up - take a look and remember, these were taken in 1913!?!). There was even a little bit of mystery, as we wonder from month to month, where is the Mona Lisa?

I loved Florian Illies's slightly mischievous sense of humor and gift of storytelling, which reminded me of the late Paul Harvey's style of sharing the news.

"We can't forget Kafka, or his bride! So how did Felice Bauer react to the most preposterous marriage proposal of all time?"

"So: worries about worries in Augsburg. Was anyone in a good mood in May 1913? Plainly not."

I also found that some ideas and actions aren't quite as modern as I might consider them to be: men walking around with their trousers hanging low (painter Oskar Kokoschka), worries that technology will destroy nature, and more seriously, school shootings.

1913 does put a heavy focus on figures and events in European nations, especially France and Germany. But the abundant cast and their fascinating stories kept me clicking over to Google to research more. That made for a slightly slower read, but I was enthralled from beginning to end. This is exactly the kind of non-fiction read that keeps readers engaged and brings history to life! Loved it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.
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Format: Hardcover
As we are nearing the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the onslaught of books about the war is on the way. I, for one, am looking forward to it, as I fell that this war is one of the most important events of the twentieth century, creating many situations we are still working through today. What has been even more interesting and pleasurable, in a way, is the flurry of books on the lead-up to the war that have been coming out recently. I’ve been glancing through a number of them, and this one is one of the cleverest and most interesting of the lot.

Not really a book about the causes of the Great War, what Illies has given us instead is a diary of the year 1913. He shows us what was going on in the world in the year before much was destroyed and everything changed. And not just in the political world, but in art and science and more. It is an absolutely fascinating story.

The book is divided into twelve chapters, one for each month of the year. Each month is filled with blurbs, some of only a line or two, few rarely going beyond a page or two. We get snippets of events in the lives of people during these months which would have a great impact on the future: Kafka, Picasso, Rilke, Mann, Freud, Brecht, Musil, Proust, Laurence, Louis Armstrong and many more names who are perhaps less well known but not forgotten. Of course, we also get glimpses of Lenin, Stalin, Wilhelm, Franz Ferdinand, and Hitler. And through it all is the search for the missing Mona Lisa.

It’s amazing how distant the war seems as this book unfolds. What is compelling is how Illies reminds us of how many wonderful things were happening and gives us a taste of what might-have-been if war could have been avoided and the ideas of the time had been allowed to flower without the leavening of a lost generation. Among the books about the war destined to be coming out over the course of the next few years, this is one not to be missed.
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