In Paris, Proust sets out in search of lost time in a sound-proofed study, Stravinsky creates musical mayhem, and Duchamp finds a wheel; in Prague, Einstein yearns for Elsa and Kafka for Felice; in Munich, Lulu is banned, and Münter captures her Klee; in Vienna, Freud falls out with Jung, and Stalin and Hitler stroll, and maybe meet, in the grounds of a palace.
This is Europe in 1913 - the year before the storm. Florian Illies captures a world on the edge of a cataclysm, in which armies are enlarged and and nationalistic lines are drawn.
But Illies' snapshots are of a Europe, though laden with premonition, that is still vibrant and creative. The Futurists, Fauvists and Expressionists are redefining art; Proust and Joyce are reshaping literature; Freud and Jung are battling their way through the subconscious; Stravinsky has tapped a primitive nerve in music; and Einstein is, well, Einstein.
The anecdotes and observations embrace Picasso, Braque, the Mona Lisa (mostly missing), Thomas Mann, Duchamp, Franz Ferdinand, Kirchner, Klee, Klimt, Kandinsky, Kafka, Wedekind, Einstein, King George V, Stalin, Hitler, Redl, Machu Picchu, Münter and many more.
Florian Illies trained as an art historian at Bonn and Oxford. He was editor of FAZ's 'Berliner Seiten' and the arts section of 'Die Ziet', and he co-founded the arts magazine 'Monopol'. He is currently a managing partner at the fine art auction house Villa Grisebach in Berlin. 1913: The Year Before The Storm has so far sold over 200,000 copies in Germany.
Writer: Florian Illies
Translators: Shaun Whiteside and Jamie Lee Searle
Reader: Michael Maloney
Abridger: Pete Nichols
Producer: Karen Rose
A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.