Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889

My cousin recommended A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889on 19th century Vienna and I'm glad I took his advice. Author Frederic Morton looks at this pivotal year in European history. His style is more like a novelist than a historian and the people and events seem so romantic and real, which they were.

It was a time of great inflation and Austria is lost. The suicide rate in Vienna is the highest in Europe. People were killing themselves in the most dramatic fashion. For example, one woman got on a train, went into the loo, changed into a wedding gown, comes out into the main car and then jumps out of the train. Freud is starting his practice without much success. Klimt is painting a major mural at a theater and there's a big rivalry between Brahms and an unknown composer. In this setting Crown Prince Rudolf is the focal point. He's got lots of new ideas and wants to align Austria with France and progressive thought. His dad's still ruling and is quite conservative. He is closer with the German and Russian rulers and philosophy.

It's a dramatic look at history and how easily things could have gone a different way "if only . . ." Then ending echos in my head.

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