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Not Sex, but Sexy

Gabriele Annan: Alma Mahler-Werfel

10 December 1998
Alma Mahler-Werfel: The Diaries 1898-1902 
translated by Antony Beaumont.
Faber, 512 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 571 19340 4
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... finally, she married three famous men, one of them a genius. As Tom Lehrer wrote in his song about her, Alma, tell us How can they help being jealous? Ducks always envy the swans, Who get Gustav and Walter – you never did falter – With Gustav and Walter and Franz. Franz Werfel may not have been quite up to the standard of Gustav Mahler or the architect Walter Gropius, but at the time of their ...

Which is worse?

Adam Tooze: Germany Divided

18 July 2019
Die Getriebenen: Merkel und die Flüchtlingspolitik – Report aus dem Innern der Macht 
by Robin Alexander.
Siedler, 288 pp., €19.99, March 2017, 978 3 8275 0093 9
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Die SPD: Biographie einer Partei von Ferdinand Lassalle bis Andrea Nahles 
by Franz Walter.
Rowohlt, 416 pp., €16, June 2018, 978 3 499 63445 1
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Germany’s Hidden Crisis: Social Decline in the Heart of Europe 
by Oliver Nachtwey, translated by Loren Balhorn and David Fernbach.
Verso, 247 pp., £16.99, November 2018, 978 1 78663 634 8
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Die Schulz Story: Ein Jahr zwischen Höhenflug und Absturz 
by Markus Feldenkirchen.
DVA, 320 pp., €20, March 2018, 978 3 421 04821 9
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... is such that both Merkel and the president of Germany attended its 150th anniversary celebrations in 2013. In its long and chequered history the SPD has faced repeated challenges, chronicled in FranzWalter’s history from 2009, recently reissued in an updated edition. Most notoriously, during the Weimar Republic, divisions between social democrats and communists helped to open the door to ...

She gives me partridges

Bee Wilson: Alma Mahler

5 November 2015
Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler 
by Oliver Hilmes, translated by Donald Arthur.
Northeastern, 360 pp., £29, May 2015, 978 1 55553 789 0
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... a bottle a day). In the dining room, an abundant buffet was laid out. Luminaries from the ‘German California’ scene came to pay homage to the widow of the composer Gustav Mahler and the writer Franz Werfel, Walter Gropius’s divorced wife and Oscar Kokoshka’s former lover. Thomas Mann, who was one of the guests, offered ‘cordial felicitations on your special day’. Some of Mann’s friends ...

A Human Kafka

Gabriel Josipovici

5 March 1981
The World of Franz​ Kafka 
edited by J.P. Stern.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £9.95, January 1981, 0 297 77845 5
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... here and there voices began to be raised which resisted such an interpretation and insisted on the ultimately mysterious and ambiguous texture of Kafka’s art. Chief among these were the voices of Walter Benjamin, Maurice Blanchot, Marthe Robert and Erich Heller. Heller’s essay on The Castle in The Disinherited Mind (1952) marked a real turning point. He argued persuasively that it was folly to go ...

I Love You Still

Russell Jacoby

9 February 1995
Intellectuals in Exile: Refugee Scholars and the New School for Social Research 
by Claus-Dieter Krohn, translated by Rita Kimber and Robert Kimber.
Massachusetts, 255 pp., $15.95, July 1994, 0 87023 864 7
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... Hannah Arendt or Leo Strauss; American psychoanalysis without Erik Erikson, Bruno Bettelheim or Heinz Hartmann; American publishing without Kurt Wolff or Theodore Schocken; architecture without Walter Gropius; art history without Erwin Panofsky; mathematics without Kurt Gödel; physics without Enrico Fermi – and the list goes on and on. Of course, not every refugee intellectual caused cultural ...

Empire of Signs

James Wood: Joseph Roth

4 March 1999
The String of Pearls 
by Joseph Roth, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Granta, 224 pp., £12.99, May 1998, 1 86207 087 3
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... arguments but often exquisite descriptive snatches. Karl Kraus was an earlier master of the form; in the Twenties, when Roth started writing them, Alfred Polgar was the most celebrated exponent. Walter Benjamin called Polgar ‘the German master of the small form’. In 1935, writing in honour of Polgar’s 60th birthday, Roth said that he considered himself Polgar’s pupil: ‘He polishes the ...

Hand and Mind

Michael Baxandall

17 March 1983
Dürer: His Art and Life 
by Fedja Anzelewsky, translated by Heide Grieve.
Gordon Fraser, 273 pp., £50, November 1982, 0 86092 068 2
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Dürer: Paintings, Prints, Drawings 
by Peter Strieder, translated by Nancy Gordon and Walter​ Strauss.
Muller, 400 pp., £35, September 1982, 0 584 95038 1
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... process went on, often in very different ways, through the following centuries. In time there came straight fiction. The best of the Dürer novels is Ludwig Tieck’s unfinished The Wanderings of Franz Sternbald: A Story of Old Germany, published in 1798. Its underlying theme is tension between simplicity and complexity again, art and morality, and some other pairs, subsumed under an overarching ...

Some Damn Foolish Thing

Thomas Laqueur: Wrong Turn in Sarajevo

5 December 2013
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 
by Christopher Clark.
Allen Lane, 697 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 0 7139 9942 6
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... Tuchman’s story begins with Edward VII’s funeral on 20 May 1910. The king’s sister-in-law, the empress consort of Russia, Maria Feodorovna, wife of Alexander III, was there. So was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent to the aged Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. And so was Edward’s least favourite nephew, Wilhelm II of Germany. Wilhelm loved and admired the British and they loved the ...
16 October 1997
The Man without Qualities 
by Robert Musil, translated by Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike.
Picador, 1774 pp., £40, November 1995, 0 330 34682 2
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The Man without Qualities 
by Robert Musil, translated by Sophie Wilkins.
Picador, 1130 pp., £15, October 1997, 0 330 34942 2
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... story are closely related exceptions to the rule of The Man without Qualities. The same relation holds true in reverse: the characters who do not have stories are also not in the running for babies. Walter desperately wants a baby, but Clarisse, his wife, won’t co-operate. ‘Nothing doing, my dear!’ she taunts, grabbing a piece of cheese and heading off into the night to observe moths. Clarisse ...

At the Barbican

Saul Nelson: Jean-Michel Basquiat

4 January 2018
... blue paintings: the old Abstract Expressionist elite, New York’s first artistic avant-garde, are seldom far from Basquiat’s large-scale works. His favourite painter, apart from Cy Twombly, was Franz Kline. But, as in Twombly’s work, this legacy is contested, cut up, scrawled out. King Zulu’s expanse of colour – the sort of surface Still would have limited to strictly abstract optical ...

Alma’s Alter

Gabriele Annan

11 June 1992
Oscar Kokoschka: Letters 
translated by Mary Whittall.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £24.95, March 1992, 0 500 01528 7
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... and friend did not include Kokoschka’s letters to the dollmaker from whom he commissioned a life-size rubber model of his mistress, Alma Mahler, after she left him for her old flame, the architect Walter Gropius. This was after Kokoschka had been seriously wounded in the First World War. He insisted that every detail of Alma’s anatomy should be correct, and when he finally took delivery of her ...

Princes, Counts and Racists

David Blackbourn: Weimar

18 May 2016
Weimar: From Enlightenment to the Present 
by Michael Kater.
Yale, 463 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 0 300 17056 6
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... minor figures declined to come. Some came but soon left, like Hans Christian Andersen and Hoffmann von Fallersleben, author of ‘Deutschland, Deutschland, über Alles’. The exception was Franz Liszt, who spent thirty years in Weimar in all. He first appeared in 1841 and was soon offered the post of extraordinary Kapellmeister. He took up the offer in 1848, arriving with his new lover ...


Michael Church

9 October 1986
The Children of the Souls: A Tragedy of the First World War 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Chatto, 276 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 9780701128470
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Voices from the Spanish Civil War: Personal Recollections of Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain 1936-39 
edited by Ian MacDougall, by Victor Kiernan.
Polygon, 369 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 948275 19 7
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The Shallow Grave: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War 
by Walter​ Gregory, edited by David Morris and Anthony Peters.
Gollancz, 183 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 575 03790 3
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Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War 
edited by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 388 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 19 212258 4
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The Spanish Cockpit 
by Franz​ Borkenau.
Pluto, 303 pp., £4.95, July 1986, 0 7453 0188 6
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The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 
by Paul Preston.
Weidenfeld, 184 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 297 78891 4
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Images of the Spanish Civil War 
by Raymond Carr.
Allen and Unwin, 192 pp., £14.95, July 1986, 0 04 940089 4
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... The Shallow Grave meshes closely with Voices, since its author fought in the same battalion, but this piece of oral history has been turned by skilful editing into an immensely readable memoir. Walter Gregory’s tale is in many ways archetypal. ‘Setting off for Spain ... I was like a holidaymaker going abroad for the first time.’ He had moved through trade-union activism inexorably leftward ...

Marseille, 1940-43

Neal Ascherson

18 July 2013
... consulate queue were constellations of German, Austrian and Eastern European anti-fascist celebrities: Heinrich and Golo Mann, Hannah Arendt, Anna Seghers, Simone Weil, Arthur Koestler, Victor Serge, Walter Benjamin, Franz Werfel and his wife Alma Mahler, Lion Feuchtwanger, Konrad Heiden (Hitler’s first truthful biographer), Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipchitz, Moïse Kisling, the young Claude Lévi ...
21 December 1989
The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust and German National Identity 
by Charles Maier.
Harvard, 227 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 674 92975 6
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Piper, 397 pp., DM 17.80, July 1987, 3 492 10816 4Show More
In Hitler’s Shadow: West German Historians and the Attempt to Escape from the Nazi Past 
by Richard Evans.
Tauris, 196 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 1 85043 146 9
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Why did the heavens not darken? 
by Arno Mayer.
Verso, 510 pp., £19.95, October 1989, 0 86091 267 1
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A German Identity, 1770-1990 
by Harold James.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £16.95, March 1989, 9780297795049
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Die Republikaner: Phantombild der neuen Rechten 
by Claus Leggewie.
Rotbuch, 155 pp., May 1989, 3 88022 011 5
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Ich war dabei 
by Franz​ Schönhuber.
Langen Müller, 356 pp., April 1989, 3 7844 2249 7
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... insist on distinguishing between ‘anti-semitism’ as a broad ideological attitude, and ‘Judeocide’ as the more accurate designation of the events; and he rejects the term ‘Holocaust’ (as Walter Laqueur did before him), a word that has petrified into an empty cliché since it was given currency by an American television show. What was done to the Jews, Mayer rightly observes, has nothing to ...

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