Café culture and the Public Sphere

From Adam Gopnik’s lovely New Yorker essay on Shachar Pinsker’s book, A Rich Brew: How Cafés Created Modern Jewish Culture:

The still extant Café Central had an interior like a miniaturized San Marco, with hallucinatory Byzantine columns and swooping enclosing spandrels and squinches. (The fin-de-siècle modernist writer Peter Altenberg listed his address as “Vienna, First District, Café Central.”) Yet in its prime it was a “place of politics,” and crowded with émigré revolutionaries. A famous story had Leopold Berchtold, the Foreign Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, being warned that a great war might spark a revolution in Russia. “And who will lead this revolution?” he scoffed. “Perhaps Mr. Bronshtein sitting over there at the Café Central?” Mr. Bronshtein took the name Leon Trotsky, and did.