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Count Harry Kessler (1868-1937), the son of a German banker and an Irish beauty, was a diplomat and publisher who moved easily among the worlds of art, politics, and society. He lived in Berlin but traveled throughout Europe, always with a keen eye for the political climate of the times. His diaries encompass an extraordinary variety of people: Einstein engages him in long discussions on his theories; Josephine Baker dances naked in Kessler's drawing room; Lloyd George presides over the farcical Genoa conference in 1922. Kessler had dinner with Max Reinhardt, George Grosz, Virginia Woolf, Jean Cocteau, and Andre Gide, lunch with Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, and Erik Satie. His diaries encapsulate this tumultuous time frame, recording at first hand the agonizing collapse and death of Weimar Germany and the arrival of the Nazis.
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"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.
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