Hitler came to power when Eric Hobsbawm was on his way home from school in Berlin, and the Soviet Union fell while he was giving a seminar in New York. He translated for Che Guevara in Havana, had Christmas dinner with a Soviet master spy in Budapest and an evening at home with Mahalia Jackson in Chicago. He saw the body of Stalin, started the modern history of banditry and is (presumably) the only Marxist asked to collaborate with the inventor of the Mars bar. Multilingual, peripatetic, sceptical, endlessly curious and almost contemporary with the terrible "short century" which is the subject of his most widely read book, "Age of Extremes 1914-1991", Hobsbawm has kept his eyes and ears open for 85 years, and has been constantly committed to understanding the "interesting times" through which he has lived. His autobiography is one passionate cosmopolitan Jew's account of his travels through that past which is another country, where they do things differently, and how it became the world of 2002. Hobsbawm takes us from Britain to the countries and cultures of Europe, to the USA (which he appreciated first through jazz), to Latin America, Chile, India and the Far East, and round the dead universe of what was known to its adherents as "really existing socialism". He shows us the history of the 20th century, and the battles of arms and ideology that were fought during it, through the unforgiving eye of one of its most intensely engaged participants.