Born Nikolai Pewsner into a Russian-Jewish family in Leipzig in 1902, Nikolaus Pevsner was a dedicated scholar who pursued a promising career as an academic in Dresden and Gottingen. When, in 1933 Jews were no longer permitted to teach in German universities, he lost his job and looked for employment in England. Here, over a long and amazingly industrious career, he made himself an authority on the exploration and enjoyment of English art and architecture, so much so that his magisterial county-by-county series of 46 books on The Buildings of England is usually referred to simply as 'Pevsner'. As a critic, academic and champion of Modernism, Pevsner became a central figure in the architectural consensus that accompanied post-war reconstruction; as a 'general practitioner' of architectural history, he covered an astonishing range, from Gothic cathedrals and Georgian coffee houses to the Festival of Britain and Brutalist tower blocks. Susie Harries explores the truth about Nikolaus Pevsner's reported sympathies with elements of Nazi ideology, his internment in England as an enemy alien and his assimilation into his country of exile. His Heftchen - secret diaries he kept from the age of fourteen for another sixty years - reveal hidden aspirations and anxieties, as do his numerous letters (he wrote to his wife, Lola, every day that they were apart).Harries is the first biographer to have read Pevsner's private papers and, through them, to have seen into the workings of his mind. Her definitive biography is not only rich in context and far-ranging, but is also brought to life by quotations from Pevsner himself. His life - as an outsider yet an insider at the heart of English art history - illuminates both the predicament and the prowess of the continental emigres who did so much to shape British culture after 1945.
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"This is a biographical masterpiece that shows how the life of one man can become a prism through which can be read the stories of both England and Germany in the 20th century...[Harries] book is of infinite value" -- Alexandra Harris New Statseman "A biography almost as comprehensive as the BofE [Buildings of England] itself...It's been worth the 20 year wait" -- Matthew Bell Independent on Sunday "What Harries brings to the table is the most intimate portrait of Pevsner yet" -- Hugh Pearman Sunday Times "This is not just a fair-minded biography, but also an impressive and comprehensive one. An enormous one too... even the obsessives will discover new things" -- Harry Mount Spectator "Magnificent...in Susie Harries's hands, Pevsner's story unlocks a vitally important chapter in 20th-century history...told with warmth, lucidity and wit" Art Quarterly
About Susie Harries
Susie Harries is a writer specializing in culture, history and the arts. Born in 1951 in London, where she now lives with her husband Meirion and their two sons, she read classics and classical philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge, and St Anne's College, Oxford. She has co-authored seven books with her husband, including major works on twentieth-century arts:The Academy of St Martin in the Fields (1981), The War Artists (1983) and A Pilgrim Soul: a Life of Elisabeth Lutyens (1989). She has also written for the Independent and reviewed books on the arts for the Times Literary Supplement.
Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life by Susie Harries
Used - Very Good
Joint winner of Wolfson History Prize 2011
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