In "Fracture," critically acclaimed historian Philipp Blom argues that in the aftermath of World War I, citizens of the West directed their energies inwards, launching into hedonistic, aesthetic, and intellectual adventures of self-discovery. It was a period of both bitter disillusionment and visionary progress. From Surrealism to Oswald Spengler s "The Decline of the West"; from Fritz Lang s "Metropolis" to theoretical physics, and from Art Deco to Jazz and the Charleston dance, artists, scientists, and philosophers grappled with the question of how to live and what to believe in a broken age. Morbid symptoms emerged simultaneously from the decay of World War I: progress and innovation were everywhere met with increasing racism and xenophobia. America closed its borders to European refugees and turned away from the desperate poverty caused by the Great Depression. On both sides of the Atlantic, disenchanted voters flocked to Communism and fascism, forming political parties based on violence and revenge that presaged the horror of a new World War.
Vividly recreating this era of unparalleled ambition, artistry, and innovation, Blom captures the seismic shifts that defined the interwar period and continue to shape our world today.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-16
- Reviewer: Staff
In the beginning of this thoughtful portrait of the interwar years, Blom (A Wicked Company) asks the central question that arose for so many everyday people: after the devastation of WWI, “What values were there left to live for?” Blom is thorough in documenting the many attempts to answer this question, from the noble to the insidious to the tragic. He adeptly roams across topics and locations, including the early stirrings of fascism when the Italian poet D’Annunzio marched on Fiume; H.G. Wells’s scathing review of Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis; the sickening activism of American eugenics enthusiasts; the wonders of Magnitogorsk, the “Magnet City” built in the Urals; and the growing risk of totalitarian regimes, such as Mussolini’s, that pandered to the hopeless and the lost. Dread, paranoia, and anger pervade these stories, and Blom does not shy away from criticizing those who made matters worse, such as George Bernard Shaw, who proclaimed “there is no famine in the Ukraine” after a Soviet-chaperoned visit in the middle of the nightmarish Holodomor. Writing about postwar Vienna, Blom notes that “nobody felt at home,” but he could be writing about almost anyone in that era, and this well-written account brings a refreshing clarity to such uncertain times. Illus. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Apr.)