I have never recognised myself so completely in a book … In the end what of reality have I really enjoyed with my senses? I have desired countless women, have had many, have enjoyed none.
Life is for the fantasist a novel whose last chapter he already knows. In the morning I took leave of my lovely little Dungern. Went to Potsdam for the regimental dinner. To what extent it was reciprocated by Dungern will presumably never be known. To be a homosexual in Berlin between and , and a member of the upper classes, had certain unspoken advantages, as well as certain dangers. The group was implicated in a series of homosexual scandals, and in the outing of the richest man in Germany, Fritz Krupp, heir to the gigantic steel business, led to the first of a wave of suicides.
Krupp had used his palatial house on Capri to create a cult of beauty, staffed by willing Neapolitan waiters. In Locarno, the Baltic Baron Elisar von Kuppfer erected a temple, the Elisarion, to celebrate the worship of the male body, complete with giant murals in pastel colours in which women turned out on closer inspection to be men. A different group of aristocrats with secret lives served in the exclusive guards regiment. They were exposed by the journalist Maximilian Harden in and one, General Count Kuno von Moltke, a military aide to the kaiser, faced a sensational trial.
Kessler belonged to all these overlapping circles: he was a rich aristocrat too, a guards officer with a passionate commitment to the arts.
He moved easily, as he notes himself, from one group to another. The Dienstzeit — compulsory army — service gave Kessler the one secure and permanent identity of his life. His father, Adolf Wilhelm Kessler, a Hamburg banker of enormous wealth, had in married a great beauty and socialite, Irin Alice Harriet Blosse-Lynch, the daughter of an Irish baronet and a distant relative of the Prussian royal house.
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On 1 October , Harry Kessler began his year of volunteer service in Potsdam with the 3rd Guards, in a cavalry regiment founded in by King Wilhelm I himself. This normally amounted to several thousand marks a year. Kessler thoroughly enjoyed his period of service and managed to combine drill and culture. Interesting parallel between this book and Raskolnikov. At the end of the year he passed the examination, which allowed him to become a reserve officer and gave him regimental mess privileges for the rest of his life: i.
He now became a different sort of social actor, who moved in two distinct circles in Berlin, which only occasionally overlapped: the bohemian artistic and the high aristocratic.
On 23 January he was presented at court: he had arrived. A few weeks later, he noted:. I do not agree with those who find society hollow. My feeling is more one of admiration for the confidence and skill with which these enormous forces of material and intellectual capital play against each other. Behind a tone of voice or a look, an eight-hundred-year-old chain of glorious ancestors or a fortune of ten million can stand.
All of these people are just symbols, algebraic signs for forces that the shading of an expression can decide to deploy in one way or another. This symbolic quality of each individual in a world of fateful connections and forces differentiates the crowd in a ballroom from a mob of people. His status as a guards officer and his connections made him the perfect emissary in when reinforcements were desperately needed on the Carpathian front. In Volume VI, covering , Kessler describes at length the Carpathian campaign in winter, which had become a military fiasco. The Austrians had lost , men in the snow and cold against the Russians, who held secure positions on the heights.
Only Kessler, though just a Rittmeister the cavalry term for a captain , could have gone to Berlin, where on 10 March he had a private dinner with Reich Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg. In the west we are already too thin and could withdraw nothing there. Hindenburg too could hardly give anything up … In general he made a very depressed impression.
The Red Count - Laird M Easton - Häftad () | Bokus
Kessler ended that memorable evening by taking star dancer Valsav Nijinsky on a nocturnal joyride through the deserted streets of Paris. Two decades later, in , as Hitler seized power in Berlin and jack-booted Nazi troops held a torchlit victory parade through the Brandenburg Gate, Count Kessler drowned his sorrows in a pub nearby with a friend and two blonde prostitutes. Less than a month later, a sombre Kessler noted in alarm. Blosse-Lynch was a singer, would-be actress and one of the most beautiful women of her era, whose coterie of admirers across Europe included the German Kaiser, Wilhelm I.
His elite education in Paris, Ascot , Hamburg, followed by law studies in Bonn and Leipzig , set him up for life as a multilingual cosmopolitan, someone who looked beyond the conservative strictures of Berlin court life — and the pungent nationalism of the day. He was just 23 when he embarked on a round-the-world tour through the US, Canada , Japan , China , India , Egypt and, later, Mexico — keeping copious notes for eventual travel books.
Soon he had accumulated works by Seurat, Maillot and Rodin, all of whom he knew personally. Kessler was a rare bird in late Wilhelmine Berlin , fluttering between court balls and artistic salons. But the persistent paternity rumours impinged on his ambitions to become a diplomat.
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Shut out of diplomacy, he ran for parliament, but his colourful count routine failed to impress voters in rural western Germany. It was in Weimar that he set up his Cranach press, producing fine art volumes for a discerning public, and where his collaboration with Dutch architect and designer Henry van de Velde flourished — energy and inspiration that flowed into the later Bauhaus school.
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