Modris Eksteins




“A deeply moving and intellectually challenging view of modern history.”

Los Angeles Times

“...a beautiful meditation, written with both intellectual and moral urgency.”

Publishers Weekly

“ important reassessment of WWII and its outcome...and ambitious.”

Kirkus Reviews

In his journey to 1945 and the firestorm in Berlin, Eksteins weaves the story of his family in Latvia into the major events of the era, merging the subjectivity of the modern style with the objectivity of the scholar.

Empire, war, communism, fascism, the Holocaust, genocide, the huge tide of European refuges, New World immigration, freedom...These are the markers of our turbulent age.

Born in Latvia, Eksteins arrived as a child in 1950 among the displaced in Canada. He surveys the wreckage from two angles: by looking back from 1989 and the collapse of the Berlin Wall and, at the same time, moving forward from the perspective of the 19th century borderlands between Russia and Germany.

It is an astute and thrilling panorama from the imperial age of coherence to our current confusions and fragmented logic.


Winner Pearson
Literary Prize

Standaart Nthlds 2007
Houghton Mifflin US1999
Macmillan UK 2000 OP
Key Porter Canada 1999
Atena Latvia 2002




“Eksteins is as gifted a stylist as he is a scholar. One reads it with fascination and intellectual gratitude.”

Alfred Kazin

“…a witty and enterprising scholar”

Kurt Vonnegut

“...nothing less than a retrospective of our entire century. Art and politics, dance and war, have never been the same. ...It is the start of a new history.”

James Carroll

The Great War and the birth of the modern age

This classic, award-winning book, in print since 1989, is celebrated by scholars and readers alike. It even inspired a Hollywood film, Max, starring John Cusak.

“The Great War was the psychological turning point for modernism,” argues Eksteins. “The urge to create and the urge to destroy had changed places.”

With originality and discerning historical analysis, he describes the origins, impact, and aftermath of WWI from the premiere of Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring in 1913, to the final dance by the denizens of Hitler’s bunker in 1945.

This is a remarkable cultural history that redefines the way we look at our past and think about the future.


Winner Trillium Award

Macmillan UK 2000 OP
Houghton Mifflin USA 1989
Key Porter /Can
Plon France 1990 OP
TBS Britannica Japan
Editora Rocco Brazil
Standard Uitgeverij Holland
PIW Poland


Modris Eksteins is a professor of history at the University of Toronto at Scarborough.