Saturday, October 09, 2010

Rites of Spring : The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age

Rites of Spring : The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age 

by Modris Eksteins

Having read and enjoyed Paul Fussel's The Great War and Modern Memory I came to Modris Eksteins’ The Rites Of Spring and discovered another great work of cultural history that both augmented and complemented Fussel's book. The author transports the reader by demonstrating the advent of the modern through a mood laced with death, movement, irony, rebellion and inwardness. The book unveils a pre-war world of German industrialization and avant-garde art, discusses the disillusionment of an unending first world war, and climaxes with the resultant rise of Nazi regime. Eksteins’ cultural history is readable as he delves into the beginning of tthe 20th century, limning the convoluted social, political and military realities through the lens of individual lives of thinkers, artists and politicians. His aesthetic style, fleeting comparisons and iconoclastic conclusions not only mimics the modes of his subjects, but engages the interest of the reader in a manner paralleled only by authors of fiction. Taking a new approach to cultural history, The Rites of Spring challenges traditional historiography that sheds new light on the spirit of the modern age. For those interested in the nexus of traditional history and culture this is an essential book.

Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins. Mariner Books, New York. 2000

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