A Nervous Splendor
3 Pages 656 Words
A Nervous Splendor by Fredric Morton
A Nervous Splendor is a study of a single year - 1888-1889 - in the fairy tale city of Vienna. During this year Johann Strauss Jr. wrote his Emperor Waltz; Sigmund Freud, having quit his lucrative job as assistant physician to a Nerve Specialist for the Very Rich, used the term "subconscious" for the first time in print; there was a renaissance of Viennese music, art, literature, and architecture; and Vienna became the Suicide Capital of the world. It was the year Crown Prince Rudolph, handsome and popular heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, shot his 17 year-old mistress Mary Vetsera and then himself at his hunting lodge Mayerling. It was also the year Clara Hitler gave birth to Adolph. For many Austrians, it was the year the Western Dream died. In Vienna, the Totentanz, the 'Dance of Death', is necessarily a waltz. Frederic Morton, Viennese to the core and one of our better novelists, turned his hand a decade back to history, the history of Vienna before the wars. The results are superb.
In A Nervous Splendor, Morton takes up the life and mood of an ancient and imperial city confronting the quickening of modernity: much of the modern world was borne in the Habsburg womb, incongruously enough. Herzl and Freud, Klimt and Mahler, street-sweepers and archdukes all play their parts, drawn in telling detail, richly nuanced. A Nervous Splendor details an ominous year in the failing life of the Austro-Hungarian Dyarchy: a year of suicides great and obscure, of intellectual rebellions and repressions, a year in which Bruckner and Brahms reconciled, Freud took the first steps into a new discipline, and Arthur Schnitzler faced the facts of the writing life. A year dark with portent, and centering most darkly upon the figure of the imperial heir apparent. A year in the gimcrack capital of a ramshackle empire, whose armies moved (usually in retreat) in three...
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