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Synchronised history to help us understand who we are

A book about the early 20th century that helps us understand the present and be better prepared for the future

If we want to understand who we are today and who we will be tomorrow, we need to understand what we were like yesterday. So, a well-rounded view of history is an essential tool for everyone. History told as more than a mere sequence of dates, diplomatic agreements and major events, described through a complex (yet understandable) collection of views and in-depth insights that look at the past from several different points of view. A history of people, men and women, companies and institutions. History as an integral part of everyone’s culture, and enjoyable to read, like the recently published “L’alba del Novecento. Alle radici della nostra cultura” (The Dawn of the 20th Century: The roots of our culture) by Fabio Fabbri.

The book describes the ’dawn of the 20th century, in other words, from 1895 to 1914, when a genuine “cultural revolution” took place in every field of human knowledge, and led us to where we are today. Writing in a style that is easy to read but not lacking in precision, Fabbri uses different sources to describe those twenty years when the world, our world, became modern: the roots of our contemporary culture.

The book briefly retraces the “great history”, while addressing the major transitions that went with it. For example, in just a few months in 1900, we went from the inauguration of the Universal Exhibition in Paris to the publication of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams or Max Planck’s quantum theory, to Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2. Similarly, in 1913, while the Second Balkan War was raging in Europe, a 12-year-old Louis Armstrong was already playing his first notes on a trumpet in New Orleans. The tragic sinking of the Titanic – which marked the end of an era in 1912 – is almost magically linked to the sombre introduction of Mann’s The Magic Mountain, “the great poem of death”, which he began writing that year. The cannon shots that started the First World War are echoed in Kafka’s reflections, because he began writing The Trial in August 1914.

In his conclusions, the author explains that he wanted to write a history “linked to relationships with other sciences and all forms of intellectual expression, with equal status: cultural synchrony. In other words, one that includes the history of art, science, literature and psychoanalysis”. In hindsight, history should be told in this way, given that human actions are always the results of many different elements.

Fabbri’s book is easy to read but would have been difficult to write because producing a synchronised account of what happened is the result of a great deal of work. It helps you understand why our world is the way it is today, and not any other way.

L’alba del Novecento. Alle radici della nostra cultura (The Dawn of the 20th Century: The roots of our culture)

Fabio Fabbri

Laterza, 2022

A book about the early 20th century that helps us understand the present and be better prepared for the future

If we want to understand who we are today and who we will be tomorrow, we need to understand what we were like yesterday. So, a well-rounded view of history is an essential tool for everyone. History told as more than a mere sequence of dates, diplomatic agreements and major events, described through a complex (yet understandable) collection of views and in-depth insights that look at the past from several different points of view. A history of people, men and women, companies and institutions. History as an integral part of everyone’s culture, and enjoyable to read, like the recently published “L’alba del Novecento. Alle radici della nostra cultura” (The Dawn of the 20th Century: The roots of our culture) by Fabio Fabbri.

The book describes the ’dawn of the 20th century, in other words, from 1895 to 1914, when a genuine “cultural revolution” took place in every field of human knowledge, and led us to where we are today. Writing in a style that is easy to read but not lacking in precision, Fabbri uses different sources to describe those twenty years when the world, our world, became modern: the roots of our contemporary culture.

The book briefly retraces the “great history”, while addressing the major transitions that went with it. For example, in just a few months in 1900, we went from the inauguration of the Universal Exhibition in Paris to the publication of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams or Max Planck’s quantum theory, to Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2. Similarly, in 1913, while the Second Balkan War was raging in Europe, a 12-year-old Louis Armstrong was already playing his first notes on a trumpet in New Orleans. The tragic sinking of the Titanic – which marked the end of an era in 1912 – is almost magically linked to the sombre introduction of Mann’s The Magic Mountain, “the great poem of death”, which he began writing that year. The cannon shots that started the First World War are echoed in Kafka’s reflections, because he began writing The Trial in August 1914.

In his conclusions, the author explains that he wanted to write a history “linked to relationships with other sciences and all forms of intellectual expression, with equal status: cultural synchrony. In other words, one that includes the history of art, science, literature and psychoanalysis”. In hindsight, history should be told in this way, given that human actions are always the results of many different elements.

Fabbri’s book is easy to read but would have been difficult to write because producing a synchronised account of what happened is the result of a great deal of work. It helps you understand why our world is the way it is today, and not any other way.

L’alba del Novecento. Alle radici della nostra cultura (The Dawn of the 20th Century: The roots of our culture)

Fabio Fabbri

Laterza, 2022