Academic journal article German Quarterly

Artists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth-Century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Artists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth-Century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts

Article excerpt

Horowitz, Joseph. Artists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth-Century War and Revolution Transformed the American Performing Arts. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. 458 pp. $22.00 hardback.

This book discusses a selection of artists who, mainly as a result of political events, emigrated to America during the 20th century. The text frequently refers to the term "intellectual migration" which is used not with respect to Germany, but to describe the larger movement of people leaving Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Horowitz is interested in the phenomenon of adaptation, sometimes reciprocal, between the immigrant European artist and the American environment to which s/he came. His often-used phrase "cultural exchange" embodies this focus.

The book concentrates on people in music, film, and theatre through WWII, and sometimes extending beyond that. The background is set with the composer Antonin Dvorak in America in the outgoing 19th century. Some of the artists will be known to most readers; others will likely be unfamiliar to the non-specialist. That diversity is an asset, as it offers a panorama of figures and cultural interactions. There are significant excursions into dance (Balanchine) and literature (Thomas Mann and Nabokov). The word "refugees" in the subtitle is somewhat inaccurate, as quite a few of those discussed were voluntary emigrants - even if political upheavals played a role in their relocation.

The text is well-written, sometimes conversational, at other times declaiming in a poetic tone. It is for the educated reader with an interest in cultural history; technical knowledge is not required. Yet familiarity with at least some of the works under discussion - as well as German expressionism - certainly helps; this is especially true for the music, where the descriptions could become disembodied if the reader were not at all familiar with the composers. …

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