“What distinguishes his diary is Kessler’s distanziert toneits elegance, precision and shrewdness. The man who brought his gifts of mind to bear on the tragic carnival of his era was a distinguished prose writer.” The New York Times Book Review
Berlin in Lights
The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler (1918-1937)
978-0-8021-3839-2 • $17.00 • Paperback • Jan. 2002
“Like Scott Fitzgerald, Kessler was an extraordinary observer of a giddy society that was weirdly out of kilter, sparkling, brilliant, yet constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Kessler’s Berlin is a bit like the Titanic; its people dancing on a wobbly deck, oblivious to the looming catastrophe. His awareness of doom lends a macabre quality to the descriptions of his extremely elegant life under the axe of history.”—from the introduction by Ian Buruma
“What fascinates us about Germany before Hitler is not just the cultural vitality—it was, of course, a period that brought forth the novels of Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse, the new music of Schoenberg and Hindemith, the pioneering films of Lang and Murnau, the experimental design of the Bauhaus—but also a combination of licentiousness and impending violence, a sense that this brittle and hysterical society will soon succumb to the perverse brutality of Nazism.
“Kessler was a writer of sharp perception and boundless curiosity. His restless and inquiring spirit brought him into contact with every aspect of German political and cultural life. He was a skilled diplomat, and something of an intriguer, but he was also a dedicated collector and patron of art; he was a distinguished publisher, but he was also an able writer, whose work ranged from a biography of Walther Rathenau to a ballet scenario for Richard Strauss. And he knew everyone, from Einstein to the Kaiser to Josephine Baker to Bernard Shaw to the now forgotten countesses who ornamented the best salons of Berlin, Paris, and London. Every time a shot was fired in the streets of Berlin—and a great many shots were fired—Kessler set out to find out what was happening, and to write it down in his diaries. Kessler created vivid portraits, he tells splendid stories—[his diaries are a] major document of a nation in crisis.”—Otto Friedrich