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Life and Culture in the West, 1918-1938

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When the Great War ended in 1918, the West was broken. Religious faith, patriotism and the belief in human progress had all been called into question by the mass carnage experienced by both sides. Shell shocked and traumatized, the West faced a world it no longer recognized: the old order had collapsed, replaced by an age of machines. The world hurtled forward on gears and crankshafts, and terrifying new ideologies arose from the wreckage of past belief.

In Fracture, critically acclaimed historian Philipp Blom argues that in the aftermath of the First World War, 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 the First World War: 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.

From Publishers Weekly

16 February 2015 – 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.
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  • £6.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: 14 April 2015
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books
  • Print Length: 724 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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