More than eight decades after his death, the works of Franz Kafka continue to intrigue and haunt us. Even for those with only a fleeting acquaintance with his unfinished novels, or his stories, diaries and letters, "Kafkaesque" has become a byword for the menacing, unfathomable absurdity of modern existence. Yet for all the universal significance of his fiction, Kafka's writing remains inextricably bound up with his life and work in the Czech capital Prague, where he spent every one of his 40 years. Klaus Wagenbach's biography provides a meticulously researched insight into the author's family background, his education and employment, his attitude to his native city, his literary influences, and his relationships with women. The result is a fascinating portrait of the 20th century's most enigmatic writer, in whose works, as W. G. Sebald recognised, "literary and life experience overlap."
Karl Renner: Austria
Jamie Bulloch Haus Publishing, 2009 Library of Congress DB96.B76 2009 | Dewey Decimal 943.605
The Socialist politician Karl Renner (1870-1950) was prime minister of the government that took power in Vienna after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He lead the delegation to Paris, which had to face the difficult issue of reparations and war guilt, for which the Allies held the successor states to the Empire responsible for. Fortunately, Renner was a likeable man and a realist, and the Austrian delegation became quite popular in Paris. The new Austrian state was in a perilous condition in 1919, on the brink of starvation and revolution, and facing territorial demands from both Italy, which had its eyes on the Tyrol, and the new Yugoslavia. Many in the German-speaking rump of the Empire sought union with Germany, Anschluss, but the Allied Powers vetoed it. Austria is often overlooked as one of the successor states to the Habsburg Empire, but it was no less important in the postwar settlement than Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Balkan countries. Jamie Bulloch's account of Karl Renner's adroit handling of a difficult situation makes for fascinating reading.
White aster flowers, on sale on the streets of Budapest on the eve of All Souls' Day, are made the symbol of a revolution which brings Mihály Károlyi (1875-1955) to power at the head of a National Council. Károlyi concludes an armistice which leaves large areas of Hungarian territory under occupation by French, Romanian and Serbian forces. Following the King-Emperor's abdication in November 1918, Hungary is declared an independent republic with Károlyi as its President. He sets about meeting Hungary's most pressing social need, for land reform. But Károlyi's liberal regime is soon beset by strong opposition from the right and from the left. The Allies seal Károlyi's fate by refusing to end the economic blockade of Hungary and by imposing, even in advance of a peace settlement (Hungary is denied an invitation until the Conference is virtually over), even harsher armistice terms. Károlyi flinches from opposing these measures by force. The small socialist element in his government of well-meaning aristocrats defects and forms an alliance with Hungary's fledgling Communist Party. Károlyi resigns and chooses exile. The Communists, led by Bela Kun, take power. Kun raises a Red Army, which defeats a Czech invasion but fails to stem the Romanian advance, which enters Budapest in defiance of orders from Paris and engages in an orgy of pillage and destruction. The Peace Conference despatches a British diplomat, Sir George Clerk, to Budapest to broker a Romanian withdrawal. Clerk succeeds in forming a coalition government of right-wing parties, with token representation for the centre-left, which he recognises in the name of the Peace Conference and invites to send a delegation to Paris. It includes Counts István Bethlen (1874-1946) and Pál Teleki, both future prime ministers. The delegation is presented on arrival, on 6 January 1920, with the draft peace treaty for Hungary which the expert committees of the Conference have produced and which the Council has approved without amendment. The Hungarians are appalled to find that the treaty will deprive their country of two-thirds of her territory and over half of her population. The injustice of the Treaty will drive Hungary into the arms of Nazi Germany, a fatal alliance which will doom Hungary's Jews to annihilation and Hungary to defeat and destruction in the Second World War.
One of the greatest cities of the Himalaya, Kathmandu, Nepal, is a unique blend of thousand-year-old cultural practices and accelerated urban development. In this book, Thomas Bell recounts his experiences from his many years in the city—exploring in the process the rich history of Kathmandu and its many instances of self-reinvention.
Closed to the outside world until 1951 and trapped in a medieval time warp, Kathmandu is, as Bell argues, a jewel of the art world, a carnival of sexual license, a hotbed of communist revolution, a paradigm of failed democracy, a case study in bungled western intervention, and an environmental catastrophe. In important ways, Kathmandu’s rapid modernization can be seen as an extreme version of what is happening in other traditional societies. Bell also discusses the ramifications of the recent Nepal earthquake.
A comprehensive look at a top global destination, Kathmandu is an entertaining and accessible chronicle for anyone eager to learn more about this fascinating city.
Haile Selassie I, the last emperor of Ethiopia, was as brilliant as he was formidable. An early proponent of African unity and independence who claimed to be a descendant of King Solomon, he fought with the Allies against the Axis powers during World War II and was a messianic figure for the Jamaican Rastafarians. But the final years of his empire saw turmoil and revolution, and he was ultimately overthrown and assassinated in a communist coup.
Written by Asfa-Wossen Asserate, Haile Selassie’s grandnephew, this is the first major biography of this final “king of kings.” Asserate, who spent his childhood and adolescence in Ethiopia before fleeing the revolution of 1974, knew Selassie personally and gained intimate insights into life at the imperial court. Introducing him as a reformer and an autocrat whose personal history—with all of its upheavals, promises, and horrors—reflects in many ways the history of the twentieth century itself, Asserate uses his own experiences and painstaking research in family and public archives to achieve a colorful and even-handed portrait of the emperor.
Despite the “No” vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum of September 2014, the issue of potential Scottish secession from the United Kingdom has likely only just begun. The Kingdom to Come is the first book-length look at the consequences and implications of this momentous event.
Peter Hennessy discusses the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum and its immediate aftermath, as well as the constitutional issues the referendum opened for the entire United Kingdom. This book includes Hennessy’s personal impressions of recent questioning of the Acts of Union that created Great Britain and describes when he, as the top expert on Britain’s unwritten constitution, became an important voice in what might happen next. The Kingdom to Come also offers a valuable examination of the possible agenda for remaking the constitution in both the medium and long term.
Jad Adams Haus Publishing, 2005 Library of Congress PR4856.A53 2005 | Dewey Decimal 828.809
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was the greatest writer in a Britain that ruled the largest empire the world has known, yet he was always a controversial figure, as deeply hated as he was loved. This accessible biography aims at an understanding of the man behind the image and gives an explanation of his enduring popularity