Read | 21. Dec 2021

A Chronicle Of Love In Hateful Times

Florian Illies did it again - and even better than before. When the publisher, editor, art expert invented the anecdotal way of history-telling with his bestselling book "1913" he made those events of a very important summer in (not only ) German history understandable for a new generation of readers: his narrative felt like flipping through a people magazine of those times.

There was a sequel of the bestseller which came out some years later - "1913 – Was ich unbedingt noch erzählen wollte".

And as much as I admired his style - it sometimes felt strange to read about artists and villains alike as if Illies had been told their detailed story directly by them. His writing reminded of watching a bio-pic, also something I mostly do with mixed emotions.

In his new book "Liebe in Zeiten des Hasses" Illies writes about another era - the end of the 1920s and the following decade. The most dreadful and disgusting in German history: The age of hate is what he calls it. So far you can only read it in German but I am sure there will be an Englsih version soon - too many of those lovers are internationally relevant - and also fled their homeland for Paris, Switzerland, the South of France or the USA.

The meticulously researched book combines the love stories of artists, actresses and actors, writers and painters, husbands and wives, lovers and losers - most of them well known and already the topic of books and movies. So the fictional part is much smaller, also: Illies often uses photographs or documentary material to describe relationships - he just allows himself to deliver a certain interpretaion of how a woman looks at a man, how they pose with each other for the photographer.

What touched me the most are the many different ways of realizing the ugly truth of the new political system of National Socialism - followed by the hope of leaving the country overnight, always afraid of being caught by the "SS". As a reader you well sit in the nighttrain to Paris with Helen and Kurt Wolff, you accomany future German chancellor Willy Brandt and Heinrich Mann´s future wife Nelly Kröger on (two different) little sailboats on the Baltic Sea direction Denmark. And you maybe understand for the first time why Eric Kästner did NOT leave (and even watched his books burning), why Kurt Tuchoslky got depressed and Erich Maria Remarque did not.

And to discover through Florian Illies eyes again the abysm of Leni Riefenstahl´s character - just by describing her love life - was deeply creepy. Don´t we all reveal the bottom of our hearts and the core of our personality by the way we fall in love?

Florian Illies: "Liebe in Zeiten des Hasses", Fischer Verlag