Yes, I did mean 1913. Some of us have had quite enough of 2013, even if it was not as much an annus horribilis for us as it supposedly was for President Obama. What more need one say about a year in which a pope actually said “who am I to judge?” and gay marriage became legal in Utah–those were not proposed South Park plot lines thrown out for being too over the top, that was really 2013. And just this week, the government, as part of their unrelenting war on Christmas, failed to deliver our presents on time–oops, sorry, UPS and FedEx actually belong to the private sector.
So, for readers who were born in 1914 or later, here is some of what you missed: twelve-year-old Louis Armstrong was jailed on New Year’s morning for shooting off a stolen revolver and put in the New Orleans Colored Waifs’ Home for Boys, where he was handed a trumpet. Stalin and Hitler were both living temporarily in Vienna. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque invented Cubism. Marcel Proust, in his soundproofed room, finished writing the first volume of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Gertrude Stein, a few blocks away, wrote a short poem including the line “a rose is a rose is a rose.” And that was just January (hat tip to Florian Illies, 1913: The Year Before The Storm). By March 1913 New York was startled by modern and abstract art via the Armory Show; Stalin had returned to Russia, been arrested in St. Petersburg, and exiled to Siberia; Virginia Woolf had sent off the manuscript of her first novel; Kafka and Einstein, both living in Prague, were writing love letters to far-off women in Berlin; and the Federal Reserve Bank had been founded in New York, with shareholders including the banking houses of Chase Manhattan, Goldman Sachs, and Lehman. And on the last day of the year the Mona Lisa, lost since 1911 and found in December 1913 in Florence, crossed the border back into France on its way to the Louvre.
P. S. (or should I say prescript?) There are likely to be many books published next year on the events of 1914. At least one fine history has already appeared: Margaret MacMillan’s The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914.
- “The Armory Show at 100” (wnyc.org)
- Mona Lisa: From theft to legend (cnn.com)
- Proust’s À la recherche – a novel big enough for the world (theguardian.com)
- How a handyman stole Mona Lisa (edition.cnn.com)
- The world’s most famous missing painting (bbc.co.uk)
- What if the Germans had won the first world war? | Martin Kettle (theguardian.com)
- Turning Points: Margaret MacMillan Talks About ‘The War That Ended Peace’ (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)