cover image Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918–1938

Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918–1938

Philipp Blom. Basic, $32 (512p) ISBN 978-0-465-02249-6

In the beginning of this thoughtful portrait of the interwar years, Blom (A Wicked Company) asks the central question that arose for so many everyday people: after the devastation of WWI, “What values were there left to live for?” Blom is thorough in documenting the many attempts to answer this question, from the noble to the insidious to the tragic. He adeptly roams across topics and locations, including the early stirrings of fascism when the Italian poet D’Annunzio marched on Fiume; H.G. Wells’s scathing review of Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis; the sickening activism of American eugenics enthusiasts; the wonders of Magnitogorsk, the “Magnet City” built in the Urals; and the growing risk of totalitarian regimes, such as Mussolini’s, that pandered to the hopeless and the lost. Dread, paranoia, and anger pervade these stories, and Blom does not shy away from criticizing those who made matters worse, such as George Bernard Shaw, who proclaimed “there is no famine in the Ukraine” after a Soviet-chaperoned visit in the middle of the nightmarish Holodomor. Writing about postwar Vienna, Blom notes that “nobody felt at home,” but he could be writing about almost anyone in that era, and this well-written account brings a refreshing clarity to such uncertain times. Illus.[em] Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Apr.) [/em]