1913 : The Year before the Storm, Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


A witty yet moving narrative worked up from sketched biographical fragments, 1913 is an intimate vision of a world that is about to change forever. The stuffy conventions of the nineteenth century are receding into the past, and 1913 heralds a new age of unlimited possibility.

Kafka falls in love; Louis Armstrong learns to play the trumpet; a young seamstress called Coco Chanel opens her first boutique; Charlie Chaplin signs his first movie contract; and new drugs like cocaine usher in an age of decadence. Yet everywhere there is the premonition of ruin - the number 13 is omnipresent, and in London, Paris and Vienna, artists take the omen and act as if there were no tomorrow.

In a Munich hotel lobby, Rilke and Freud discuss beauty and transience; Proust sets out in search of lost time; and while Stravinsky celebrates the Rite of Spring with industrial cacophony, an Austrian postcard painter by the name of Adolf Hitler sells his conventional cityscapes.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: General & world history
  • ISBN: 9781846689611

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This book got off to a good start but started to bog down a bit in the middle. By then I'd put in too much time not to finish, and thankfully the final third got back on track. '1913 The Year Before the Storm', the year before the start of the first World War, and it really was fascinating to read of all the famous people that were travelling in and around Europe during that year. Here are some of the names you will read about, Franz Kafka, Marcel Duchamp, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Adolf Hitler (in 1913 a penniless artist), Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Henri Matisse. Charlie Chaplin signs his first movie contract in 1913 and the book opens with a fascinating little story about how Louis Armstrong gets his first trumpet. slow but full of interesting details.

Also by Florian Illies