Herbert Bauer, known to the world as Béla Balázs (1894–1949), led the sort of life about which contemporary intellectuals might fantasize. He knew everyone and he did everything. Born in Hungary, he included György Lukács, Karl Mannheim, Arnold Hauser, Béla Bartók, and Zoltán Kodály in his circle, among others. He knew the filmmakers Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz before their names were Anglicized. He studied with Georg Simmel and met Max Weber. As time went on, he came, so it seems, to know virtually every major European intellectual—Stefan Zweig, Robert Musil, Walter Benjamin, Sergei Eisenstein, Erwin Piscator, and on and on. He lived in the midst of a universe of conversation that dazzles us as we look back enviously upon it.

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