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Interesting Times: A Twentieth Century Life Hardcover – 26 Sep 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; Reprint edition (26 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713995815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713995817
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 4.3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 698,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Eric Hobsbawm was born in Alexandria in 1917 and educated in Vienna, Berlin, London and Cambridge. A Fellow of the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, with honorary degrees from universities in several countries, he is the author of many important works of history.

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Review

Autobiography does not come much more sumptuous than this. Eric Hobsbawm writes with elegant, witty precision. -- Observer, 10 June, 2002

This is an uncommonly interesting and agreeable autobiography, packed with detail and often wise reflection. -- Daily Telegraph, September 21, 2002

in these marvellous encapsulations of our times he shows his gift as an historian and skills as a writer -- Financial Times, 21 September, 2002

Book Description

*The controversial autobiography of one of the most celebrated historians of our time --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By ZDDQ140770 VINE VOICE on 13 Sept. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book and works on so many different levels. You read it as one man trying to reconcile his marxist beliefs with the horrors of stalins' russia and then the eventual collapse of communism. You can also read it as the life of an academic and his Universities. You can see it as the history of history itself in the twentieth century, even as the history of the author's history of the world. The point is, Hobsbawms life has been "interesting" and works its way around a number of important themes.
This is a dense, literate book and the style takes a bit of getting used to, but then becomes a wonderful easy read, full of fascinating incidental musings (especially on New York and Jazz) and intriguing characters. Moroever it is an intellectual's autobiography & it is especially interesting to read about the development of ideas and their impact. I'm docking one point because not enough of Hobsbawm the man is seen, but even so, I feel privileged to have had this insight into a very interesting life in very very interesting times. Highly recommended.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dietrich Marquardt on 15 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
Who ever is interested in newer history, in extensive portraits of European (and partly non-European) countries or single landscapes and towns (like Cambrigde) and in cultures in their different expressions can raise a treasure here.
Already the chapters about the France and Italy of the decades between 1930 and 1995 (the author actually experienced this period of time personally) are wonderful, small books for itself. Written excellently this book can easily be read and is never superficial. A fine consumption perhaps like the red wine to a good meal. Unfortunately, it is also the slightly melancholy look back to the times that more and more seem to have been the golden age of the last centuries. In terms of Hobsbawm who simplifies consciously it were the times when the rich ones had to fear the poor ones. Hobsbawm considers his own life as an unusual and not at all foreseeable case of luck. It is generous that he invides us to take part in his review of interesting and personally lucky times.
It is one of the best books which I know. I would like to always have a stack to the hand - for giving away a copy to friends.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
Hobsbawm's book is called Interesting Times rather than An Interesting Life, but that is just Hobsbawm being modest. After a lifetime of analyzing history from the perspective of a leftist, but generally even-handed, professor, he takes an opportunity to get a few things off his chest.
He tackles the question of why he stayed a communist for so long, even after the Stalin years forced so many believers to reevaluate their views. He discusses America frankly, past (loves New York, hates the suburbs near Stanford University) and present (the reaction to Sept. 11). He reminisces about wars, academia, and jazz.
About the only question he doesn't address is when and why he changed the spelling of his last name. Unimportant perhaps, but curious. A readable, entertaining, and thoughtful memoir of an interesting man in a troubled century.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on 23 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
It is truly a pity a Nobel Prize for History has never been made, because surely Eric Hobsbawm would deserve it, and considering his age it may well soon be too late. Hobsbawm (originally Hobsbaum) is one of the world's greatest living historians, author of a series of popular as well as highly acclaimed works of history spanning from the 18th Century to the 20th. He has also always been a source of controversy, mainly because of his lifelong membership of or allegiance to Communism in some form, in particular the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) during its lifespan. For this reason, the historians and commentators of the right have always decried him, slandered him and provoked him, but Hobsbawm's reputation has withstood this assault gloriously.

In "Interesting Times", Hobsbawm has taken the step of writing his own autobiography. Now normally an autobiography of a famous figure is interesting for two reasons: first, to see the development of his or her views and positions, whether politically or scientifically; and second, to get an idea of the man or woman as an individual person, with quirks and preferences and a personality. The odd thing about this particular work, and that is perhaps the failure of autobiography as a medium, is that it succeeds very well in the former, but not at all in the latter.

Hobsbawm traces his family history, tells us all about his Cambridge years, his acquaintance with Communism, his personal familiarity with basically every significant European Communist of the past century as well as every significant historian of the same, his struggles within the CPGB to promote a sane political line, and so forth. Along the way, we get some slight comments on the occasional lady of interest, and some reflections on his politics.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Andres C. Salama on 20 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
A very good autobiography. I don't share a lot of Hobsbawm's politics (he was a member of Britain's Communist party for more than half a century). Yet I have always found him a very engaging writer. Maybe because of his age - he was born in 1917 - he is immune to the neomarxist, postmodern cant that have afflicted much of leftist writers since the 1960s. His writing style is instead simple and to the point. He tells the story of his life - the story of his parents, his accidental birth in Egypt, growing up in Vienna as a Jew, the sudden death of his father and mother in a short time during his teenage years, his life as a young man in Berlin in the early 30s, his coming to England, his years in Cambridge, joining England's Communist Party, his rejection of Zionism, his life (wasted, according to him) during World War II, a visit to the Soviet Union in the 1950s, his position after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, his later visits to Latin America - in a candid, simple and matter of fact, way. A very engaging book even if you disagree with his politics.
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