The Air Show at Brescia, 1909

Peter Demetz

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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An entrancing avant-garde adventure at the dawn of the modern age

In 1909, municipal authorities built an airfield in northern Italy and invited leading pilots to compete on it. The show attracted thousands of spectators--among them Giacomo Puccini and Gabriele d'Annunzio--and reporters, including, amazingly, Franz Kafka, Max Brod, and Luigi Barzini. Peter Demetz's sparkling new book tells the enchanting story of what happened in the air and on the ground before, during, and after this amazing moment.

Kafka, it turns out, was a very precise observer of both the fragile new machines and the people who flocked to see them in action. Demetz shows us the spectacle as Kafka reported it, and also its unexpectedly melodramatic preparations, amazing dirigibles, and ace pilots--the American Glenn Curtiss, the Italian Mario Calderara, and the reigning king of the skies, Louis Blériot.

But above all Demetz wants to know what flying really meant to these visionaries of the air: many political and imaginative issues were sent aloft at Brescia. With discerning affection, he elucidates Kafka's subtle ambiguities about the consequences of flight, d'Annunzio's lust for power in aviation, Puccini's enthusiasm for speedy escapes, and Curtiss's modest heroism. Illustrated with fascinating material from the show itself, this provocative work reveals a vital point where art and technology met in imagining the future.

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The Air Show at Brescia, 1909
CHAPTER ONEThree Friends, VacationingIN LATE AUGUST 1909, three Prague friends in their twenties, and of more or less similar literary and artistic interests, thought of going together on a brief vacation. They wanted to escape from their gray old city and their office routines and stay for a few days at Riva, on the north shore of Lake Garda, the last outpost of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and deep in Italian-language territory. The youngest of them, twenty-one-year-old Otto Brod, a bank trainee, had been there a year earlier and brought back glowing reports

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About the Author

Peter Demetz

Peter Demetz, professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at Yale University, lives in New Haven, Connecticut. He is the author of many books, including Prague in Black and Gold (H&W, 1997).

Peter Demetz

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The Air Show at Brescia, 1909
Peter Demetz

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
October 2002
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429998840
ISBN10: 1429998849
272 pages, Includes 18 Black-and-White Illustrations, Color Frontispiece, Bibliography, and Index
$7.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
October 2002
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374102593
ISBN10: 0374102597
5 1/2 x 7 1/8 inches, 272 pages, 18 B&W Illustrations, Color Frontispiece, Bibliography, Index
$24.00
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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