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

Modris Eksteins, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $24.95 (396p) ISBN 978-0-395-49856-9
In a trailblazing, iconoclastic work of cultural history, Eksteins links the modern avant-garde's penchant for primitivism, abstraction and myth-making to the protofascist ideology and militarism unleashed by WW I. For Eksteins, professor of history at the University of Toronto, the seminal modernist artwork is Igor Stravinsky's 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring , a celebration of life through sacrificial death. Moving easily between the cafes of Montmartre and the battlefields of Flanders and Verdun, this brilliant, eloquent study ties the modernists' flight from history to the warring powers' preoccupation with speed, regimentation and newness, the Germans' mythic invocation of a tribal and folk past, Mussolini's esthetic of brutality. Eksteins observes that the bloody Western Front in WW I was a ``surrealistic'' landscape before poet-soldier Guillaume Apollinaire invented the term in 1917. He interprets Lindbergh's solo crossing of the Atlantic in terms of Gide's ``perfectly free act,'' one devoid of meaning other than its own inner energy and accomplishment. This provocative and disturbing reappraisal of modernism rings with authority. Photos. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-395-93758-7
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