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Alma Mahler

Alma Mahler

by Susanne Keegan

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alma seems to exert an endless fascination on biographers, as she did on the notable men who were her husbands and lovers during her long (1879-1964) and turbulent life. Following Alma Mahler by Francoise Giroud (Nonfiction Forecasts, Jan. 20), this book is much more scholarly--and perhaps a mite less entertaining. It places Alma more firmly in her cultural context, with the turn-of-the-century Viennese scene more richly detailed, and Keegan, a British journalist, had the benefit of conversations with Alma's daughter Anna and her husband. No one ever quite elucidates the mystery of Alma's exotic personality, however--her odd mixture of sensitivity and coarseness, her swoons and intense practicality, her grandeur and pettiness. It is diffcult to bring much fresh insight to bear on her relationships with spouses Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel, and, foremost among her many lovers, Oscar Kokoschka; but Keegan tells the story reliably and thoroughly. If there is any fault to find it is that she makes rather too little of Alma's declining years in Hollywood and New York. Illustrations. (Sept.)
Library Journal
The woman described by one writer as possessing ``colossal artistic understanding and intuitiveness'' is vividly portrayed here by journalist Keegan. Mahler-Werfel lived in the center of the Viennese artistic community in the early decades of this century, surrounded by the likes of Arnold Schonberg, Thomas Mann, Oskar Kokoschka, and her husbands Gustave Mahler, Walter Gropius, and Franz Werfel. To present this multifaceted personality and the turbulent society of her time, Keegan draws on a variety of factual sources, successfully weaving together a fascinating story that is well organized and well written. Recommended for libraries collecting books on European culture.-- Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto
Margaret Flanagan
In detailing the notorious life and times of Alma Mahler-Werfel, Keegan provides a fascinating entree into European cafe society at its turn-of-the-century zenith. A gifted musician in her own right, Alma suppressed her own ambitions in order to serve as mistress and muse to a wide circle of talented admirers. Married to composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and writer Franz Werfel, she defied the constraints of genteel Viennese society by entering into a series of intense friendships and tempestuous love affairs with a number of artistic luminaries. Alma's carnal and spiritual journey spanned several pivotal generations and encompassed two world wars; she witnessed the moral and cultural rise and decline of her native Vienna, eventually joining the host of political, religious, and aesthetic refugees forced to flee from Nazi domination. An outstanding biography of a remarkable woman's extraordinary passage through life.
Kirkus Reviews
Steadily intelligent, musically aware, sympathetic but objective life of the wife and goddess of Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, novelist Franz Werfel, and a handful of geniuses who loved her unstintedly. Keegan's Alma Mahler towers above Francoise Giroud's recent Alma Mahler or the Art of Being Loved (p. 30), which was a brief but empty exercise. This biography from journalist Keegan (wife of historian John Keegan) is finely researched, more than twice as long as Giroux's, packed with rich cultural detail, and gives a far more complex and redoubtable Alma. As daughter of Emil Schindler, an excellent Viennese landscape artist, Alma breathed art and artists. A songwriter, she early chose a destiny as love-goddess to geniuses, allowing herself to be adored, kissed, and who knows what else by many rising composers, usually teachers twice her age. Emil died while Alma was still young, and her aging suitors were dad's replacements. So when she met 40-year-old Mahler, she found the daddy of her dreams, surrendered before marriage—a big thing in those days—and went to the altar pregnant. Gustav demanded she give up songwriting, one composer in the household being enough, and devote herself to him. This regimen took strongly, and Alma gave Gustav more attention than she did their children. But, feeling neglected during Mahler's working hours as Vienna's great opera director and leading cultural figure, she wandered, came back, wandered more. During her third marriage, to Werfel, she made it clear to him that he could never be a great German writer since he was Jewish—then made sure he wrote moneymakers, including the "Catholic" novel The Song of Bernadette. A classywoman—even as an old fatty hooked on benedictine. (Eight pages of photographs—not seen.)

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st American ed
Product dimensions:
20.00(w) x 20.00(h) x 20.00(d)

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