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Journey to the Abyss : The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918

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Translated into English for the first time is this fascinating selection of the early diaries of Count Harry Kessler, the Anglo-German art patron, aesthete, museum director, publisher, cultural critic, cultural attaché, and secret agent. Set in Paris, London, Berlin, and Weimar Germany at the turn of the 19 and 20th Centuries, Harry Kessler, Zelig-like, is present at all the major events in European art and politics, plus he also made trips to America and Asia.

Passionate, thoughtful, and incisive, these diaries cover seminal moments in cultural history and provide an invaluable portrait of the dance, music, art and philosophy, of the time including The Ballets Russes, Impressionism, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus. But Kessler was also commentating on society, love, homosexuality, as well as politics, diplomacy and war. The diaries present brilliant, sharply etched and often richly comical descriptions of his encounters and conversations with someof the most celebrated people of his time : Otto von Bismarck, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Diaghilev, Vaslav Nijinsky, Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Marie Rilke, Paul Verlaine, George Bernard Shaw, Claude Monet, August Rodin Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch and many others. With 60 illustrations. 

"A document of novelistic breadth and depth, showing the spiritual development of a lavishly cultured man who grapples with the violent energies of the twentieth century... also a staggering feat of reportage. The war fever infected Kessler... [he] does not hide the grimness of the scene. For the reader, it is a shock to be deposited in such hellish landscapes several pages after watching the antics of Diaghilev and company; few books capture so acutely the world-historical whiplash of the summer of 1914... The supreme memoir of the grand European fin de siecle." - Alex Ross, The New Yorker

"Count Harry Kessler became, through his experiences and through the anguished searching of his spirit, something close to a representative man. He seeks out great artists and gives us memorable portraits of Verlaine in old age, of Degas and Renoir, of Rodin and Maillol, of Rilke and Hofmannsthal, of Cosima Wagner, of Richard Strauss, of Diaghilev and Nijinsky, and of other great dancers and theatrical figures of the age. He tells us of the intrigues of the German Imperial Court. The cast list alone makes this an amazing diary. This is such an important book. It is a great act of historical witness, and a great source of scandalous insight and gossip." -James Fenton, The Atlantic

Hardcover   924 Pages, Published 2011

Author: Harry Kessler   Edited and Translated by : Laird M. Easton

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