Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, August 6, 2016

On the Brink: Some of the Odd Ideas of 1913

It seems that on the eve of the Great War some were already obsessed with change, modernism, and violence.  And they soon got it. All these quotes are from 1913.

I am like a blind man running with a lighted torch among hay stacks. On whichever side I turn I must set fire on something.
                                                                                ~ King Ferdinand of Bulgaria

I have learnt everything the West can give me. Now I am shaking the dust from my feet and leaving the West, my road runs to the source of all art: the East.
                                                                                            ~ Natalia Goncharova,
                                 Stage and Costume Designer for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes

Wassily Kandinsky's "Composition VII," 1913

The psychology of the unconscious is the philosophy of the revolution...The coming revolution is a revolution for the mother-right [matriarchy]. 
                                                                                         ~ Otto Gross, 1913 

Fear is the beginning of wisdom
                                ~General Joffre, 1913

Each art is isolating itself and limiting itself to its own field. Specialisation is a characteristic of modern life, and pictorial art, like all other manifestations of the human mind, must submit to it.
                                        ~Artist Ferdinand Léger 

Hundreds of millions of people are awakening to life, light and freedom in a movement that will liberate both the peoples of Europe and the peoples of Asia.
                                                                                                     ~ Lenin 

Suffragette Killed by the King's Horse at Epsom Downs, 1913

With the high development of the capitalist countries and their increasing severe competition in acquiring non-capitalist areas, imperialism grows in lawlessness and violence, both in aggression against the non-capitalist world and in ever more serious conflicts among the competing capitalist countries.
                                                                                  ~ Rosa Luxemburg 

Bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing.
                                                        ~Patrick Henry Pearse, Irish Nationalist

It was fashionable to be pale and drained; Princess Belgiojoso strolled along the boulevards…pale as death in person.”
                                              ~ Composer Camille Saint-Saens

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
                                     ~ Gertrude Stein 

Crew Aboard New Dreadnought HMS Queen Elizabeth, 1913

There is one point when it is permissible to break up the institution of the family: that is the point when it is changing from an institution to a mausoleum.
                                                                                  ~ Rebecca West

The Slavs were not born to rule but to serve, this they must be taught.
                                                                                                  ~ Kaiser Wilhelm 


  1. Interesting set of quotes, thanks.

    I've always been particularly non fond, if that's a grammatical phrase, of that Stein quote.

  2. It is a line from a poem:

    1. Gertrude Stein was an odd duck. She proposed that Hitler get the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938 and wrote a laudatory biography of the Nazi collaborator Marshal Petain in late 1941.

    2. It is a line from a poem, not hat this improves it much.

      Capa, in his book "Slightly Out of Focus" has a great snippet about his recollections of being in Stein's home after the Liberation of Paris.

    3. "There is no there there"; also one of your lines...referring to Oakland CA where she spent some time in her youth.

  3. That's a very dark set of quotes.
    They'd make fine epigraphs.

  4. The best book on 1913 is Charles Emmerson's "1913 In Search of the World Before the Great War." Each chapter is devoted to a single city and relates the small and large issues the citizens discussed in that year. It opens up that year more than anything else I've read.

    1. Tom, I was going to recommend this book but you beat me to it. People, one of his interesting theses is that we look back at the war and pre-war, at 1913, through the lens of 20th/21st century history. People in 1913 obviously did not. The world was becoming more of a global community every day, and many still basked in the remaining fading light of Victorian times. Also interesting is how much even middle class people were able to travel on steamships and trains. The book is sprinkled with comments about famous people traveling far from home in 1913.

  5. I read part of _1913_ and enjoyed it very much.

  6. There is another 1913 book that is marvelous for its view of culture and the amazing coincidences among European artist elites in 1913:

    1913, by Florian Illies. [Alan Kaplan, sorry I can't make anything but Anonymous work but it is me]