Once they plotted revolutions,
now they’re typing blogs.
Today’s cafe society is a weak decaf.
By MICHAEL IDOV
The coffeehouse may just be mankind’s greatest invention. It certainly is the most collective one: In the classic, which is to say Viennese, form, the coffeehouse is perhaps the finest collaboration between Europe, Asia and Africa. It is almost as if every great civilization in the world had taken a brief time-out from trying to kill one another to brainstorm what a perfect public space should look like. The result was equal parts Athenian agora, Saharan oasis and Continental court, with pastries. Modernity in its bloody splendor has tumbled out of the coffeehouse: In January of 1913 alone, as Frederic Morton describes in his Vienna history “Thunder at Twilight,” Lenin, Trotsky, Hitler, Freud and Josip Broz Tito were using the same cups at Vienna’s Café Central. (Stalin was in town, too, but he was too much of a country bumpkin for espresso.)