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Jews Queers Germans
Cover of Jews Queers Germans
Jews Queers Germans
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
A breathtaking historical novel that recreates the intimate milieu around Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm from 1907 through the 1930s, a period of great human suffering and destruction and also of enormous freedom and creativity, a time when the remnants and artifices of the old word still mattered, and yet when art and the social sciences were pirouetting with successive revolutions in thought and style.
Set in a time when many men in the upper classes in Europe were gay, but could not be so publicly, Jews Queers Germans revolves around three men: Prince Philipp von Eulenburg, Kaiser Wilhelm II's closest friend, who becomes the subject of a notorious 1907 trial for homosexuality; Magnus Hirschfeld, a famed, Jewish sexologist who gives testimony at the trial; and Count Harry Kessler, a leading proponent of modernism, and the keeper of a famous set of diaries which lay out in intimate detail the major social, artistic and political events of the day and allude as well to his own homosexuality. The central theme here is the gay life of a very upper crust intellectual milieu that had a real impact on the major political upheavals that would shape the modern world forever after.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
A breathtaking historical novel that recreates the intimate milieu around Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm from 1907 through the 1930s, a period of great human suffering and destruction and also of enormous freedom and creativity, a time when the remnants and artifices of the old word still mattered, and yet when art and the social sciences were pirouetting with successive revolutions in thought and style.
Set in a time when many men in the upper classes in Europe were gay, but could not be so publicly, Jews Queers Germans revolves around three men: Prince Philipp von Eulenburg, Kaiser Wilhelm II's closest friend, who becomes the subject of a notorious 1907 trial for homosexuality; Magnus Hirschfeld, a famed, Jewish sexologist who gives testimony at the trial; and Count Harry Kessler, a leading proponent of modernism, and the keeper of a famous set of diaries which lay out in intimate detail the major social, artistic and political events of the day and allude as well to his own homosexuality. The central theme here is the gay life of a very upper crust intellectual milieu that had a real impact on the major political upheavals that would shape the modern world forever after.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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About the Author-
  • Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus, CUNY. MARTIN DUBERMAN is the author of some two dozen books, including Paul Robeson; Cures; Black Mountain; the novel Haymarket (a Seven Stories book); Howard Zinn; Stonewall; and Hold Tight Gently. Duberman is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the Vernon Rice Drama Desk Award (for his play In White America), three Lambda Literary Awards, a Special Award from The National Academy of Arts and Letters for his "contributions to literature," the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Historical Association, and the Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award in Non-Fiction. He has also been a Finalist for both the National Book Award (for James Russell Lowell) and the Pulitzer Prize (for The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein). In 2012 Amherst College awarded him an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 13, 2017
    Historian Duberman is known for his biographies and accounts of the gay rights movement; he’s written plays, as well, and now adds to his résumé this “novel/history” about the gay and Jewish men who were in and near German power circles from the first years of the 20th century up to the Nazi era. It’s a rich topic, encompassing outsiders who were also—sometimes—insiders: the circle of gay men around Kaiser Wilhelm; friends Harry Kessler and Walther Rathenau, one a gay aesthete and so-called “Red Count,” the other a Jewish industrialist who became a minister in the Weimar-era government; and Magnus Hirschfeld, the Jewish, openly gay pioneer of sexology. According to Duberman, his semi-fictionalized approach, which allows for subjectivity and “informed speculation,” is needed because history-writing is stuck in the 19th century. Perhaps he’s right, but this book does not succeed in making his case. Both historical novels and history require scenes, narrative, and characters who feel alive. Duberman describes genuinely compelling figures but then leaves them to bob on waves of German history while having awkwardly expository conversations. There are juicy stories, such as the one about the openly gay Nazi storm trooper, and tragic stories, as when Rathenau, who thinks that assimilated Jews have a real future in Germany, is killed by anti-Semites. But there is never a clear story line or a sense that these characters were living, breathing people.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2017
    This earnest historical novel traces an unusual nexus of influential German men behind social and political trends from the late 19th century to the early 1930s.With his ugly title, scholar's prose, homiletic dialogue, and dire cliches, Duberman (Hold Tight Gently, 2014, etc.), a professor of history emeritus at the City University of New York, heaps up impedimenta in the way of enjoying what are at bottom some fascinating wrinkles in the belle epoque and the years leading to Hitler's emergence. It "isn't quite" a historical novel, as Duberman concedes in an Author's Note, but a "tapestry of interlocking personalities" in which he has let his period research point him "to presumptively 'likely' feelings and opinions" for his main characters. They are Count Harry Kessler, an active diarist and a wealthy player in contemporary art as patron and collector; Walter Rathenau, the head of the AEG industrial powerhouse and rare heterosexual in the narrative; and Magnus Hirschfeld, a leader in the growing field of sexology and in efforts to kill Germany's Paragraph 175, which criminalizes sex between men. Duberman traces the predominantly gay coterie of noblemen surrounding Kaiser Wilhelm II. A "hard-hitting" muckraking newsman and nasty libel trials spark moral outrage that the German ruler shrugs off, while his bellicose shipbuilding competition with the British lights a fuse to WWI. Kessler seems to know every major artist and most writers in Europe. He collaborates with Hugo von Hofmannsthal on the libretto of Der Rosenkavalier. A Berlin salon brings him and Rathenau together, and their conversational fencing over politics and culture allows Duberman to pause his heavy chronicle for perfectly theme-serving chats. For a time there is more tolerance of gays than of Jews in Germany, although Rathenau manages to rise high because of his industrial clout and diplomatic skills. As the brown shirts hit the fan, even ham-fisted cliches--"the elephant is now decidedly in the room"--can't distract from the horror of the rising violence against queers and Jews and other Germans. Duberman distills it nicely in the assassination of Rathenau and the huge funeral that followed, leading for a brief time to a Germany that might not end up embracing Adolf. There is much good here but much to wade through.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • John Howard, author of White Sepulchres and Men Like That "Riveting. Stunning. By turns exhilarating and harrowing. At the height of his imaginative and interpretive powers, award-winning author Martin Duberman elaborates the rich, complex promises and perils of German life and politics in advance of World Wars I and II, with ghostly echoes reverberating across the Atlantic to this very day."
  • Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States and Professor of Practice in Media and Activism at Harvard University "With a bold, grand vision and an unparalleled grasp of the endless details that make up the arc of history, Martin Duberman elucidates and illuminates how sex, art, hatred, violence, and intrigue shape a national politic. His sprawling canvas here--populated by Kaiser Wilhelm II, Isadora Duncan, Magnus Hirschfeld, and Ernst Röhm among many others--is late nineteenth century to pre–World War II Germany. The implications and resonances of this story are, however, frighteningly contemporary. Sweeping and poetic, minutely observed and realistic, Jews Queers Germans is a brilliant window to the past that shows us the present and possibly the future."
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