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Love in a Time of Hate: Art and Passion in the Shadow of War, 1929-39 by Florian Illies

Original title: Liebe in Zeiten des Hasses. Chronik eines Gefühls 1929-39

I have just recently heard of Florian Illies, a German writer and art historian. Marianne at Let's read recently reviewed his 1913: The Year Before the Storm which have got very good reviews. When I saw his latest book in the book shop, read the back cover, I knew I had to have it.

"1930s Europe - as the Roaring Twenties wind down and the world rumbles towards war, the great minds of the time have other concerns.

Jean-Paul Sartre waits anxiously in a Parisian café for his first date with no-show Simone de Beauvoir. Marlene Dietrich slips from her loveless marriage into the dive bars of Berlin. Father and son Thomas and Klaus Mann clash over each other's homosexuality. And Vladimir Nabokov lovingly places a fresh-caught butterfly at the end of Verá's bed. Little do they all know, the book burning will soon begin.

Love in a Time of Hate skilfully interweaves some of the greatest love stories of the 1930s with the darkening backdrop of fascism in Europe, in an irresistible journey into the past that brings history and its actors to vivid life."

With this book Florian Illies takes a look at European history from 1929-1939. He does it in an unusual way, through the love life of the intelligentsia and artist in Europe. The book is divided into three parts: Before, 1933 and After. It is fascinating reading to say the least.

It is a brilliant and thrilling story of artists who tried to survive as dark clouds lingered over Europe. The love stories are told in short paragraphs, going from one couple to another in parallell lines, which makes for a fast pace. It is told in the present and follow the development of each person, as regards their love stories and creative work. It is a genius way of telling political history at the back drop of love stories. Makes for more understanding of the times in which they were living. Illies must have made a huge amount of research, considering that a lot of the information are rather private. His knowledge is very impressive. He makes the people come alive and showing how the political development very much affected also artists. Most of them, but not all, go into exile in other countries in Europe, and/or continue to the United States.

Even if we are quite free these days when it comes to love, sex and relationships, the twenties and thirties in Europe seemed to have been a time of free love. At least among the artist communities. The marriages and relationships we read about, were littered with bi- hetero- and homosexualities, unfaithfulness, by the husband and/or the wife and people seemed to sleep with one another left and right. Maybe it will be true to say that when times are bad, love tends to flow freely, also as a desperate measure in desperate times.

I really enjoyed the book and can only recommend it to anyone interested in Europe of the 1930s. Illies has found another way of seeing, and connecting, to history. One of the best books I have read. Furthermore, what an excellent title, and I love the cover.

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