STARRED REVIEW
October 15, 2019

Crucible

By Charles Emmerson
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Opening with a striking scene from Petrograd, Russia, at the Tsar’s estate in the winter of 1917, Crucible: The Long End of the Great War and the Birth of a New World, 1917–1924, is a fascinating gallop through interwar Europe, told chronologically through the eyes of some of the era's most radical figures.

Historian Charles Emmerson explains how fascism, revolution and artistic growth unfolded in parallel during this critical time, exploring the lives of several important political figures, artists, thinkers and revolutionaries to emphasize how key figures led Europe from tentative peace after World War I into an era of violent nationalism. Stories of dictators on the rise (Lenin, Mussolini) become entangled with those of other movements and leaders, too—the black liberation philosophies of Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois, the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk of Turkey, the surrealism of André Breton, the toxic anti-Semitism of Henry Ford and the growing popularity of Sigmund Freud’s brand of psychoanalysis.

Intimate, diary-like passages, which read more like a novel than a historical text, take readers through the stories of these figures one by one. By isolating each vignette to one point of view, Crucible slowly reconstructs the history of interwar Europe one puzzle piece at a time. This approach to storytelling is not only helpful and cinematic but also lends an intimate sense of what life was like in Europe 100 years ago.

If you’ve ever wondered what is in the heart of a revolutionary, or what it takes to live through war and destruction, this dramatic, illuminating retelling of a significant time in history will prove to be an invaluable text. 

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Crucible

Crucible

By Charles Emmerson
PublicAffairs
ISBN 9781610397827

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