Born in , the year of the Russian Revolution, the eighty-five years of Eric Hobsbawm's life are backdropped by an endless litany of wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions. He has led a remarkably fulfilling and long life; historian and intellectual, fluent in five languages, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, until it dissolved itself, and writer of countless volumes of history. He has personally witnessed some of the critical events of our century from Hitler's rise to power in Berlin to the fall of the Berlin wall. Hobsbawm has kept his eyes and ears open for eighty-five years, and has been constantly committed to understanding the 'interesting times' as the Chinese curse puts it through which he has lived.
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Preview — Interesting Times by Eric J. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published May 16th by New Press first published September 24th More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Interesting Times , please sign up.
Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Apr 27, Ximena rated it it was amazing. Marxist historian Eric J. Hobsbawm writes a historical masterpiece of the XX century through the rather peculiar gender of the autobiography.
He approaches the historical events of the "short twentieth-century" through his own experiences, first as a boy in his hometown Vienna during the Great Depression, as a youth of jewish background and marxist ideology in Berlin during the rise to power of Hitler, as a university student in Cambridge during its most revolutionary years before WWII, and fina Marxist historian Eric J.
He approaches the historical events of the "short twentieth-century" through his own experiences, first as a boy in his hometown Vienna during the Great Depression, as a youth of jewish background and marxist ideology in Berlin during the rise to power of Hitler, as a university student in Cambridge during its most revolutionary years before WWII, and finally as a respected marxist historian and intellectual in the context of the Cold War in London and Paris.
His historical and factual precision, including primary sources to legitimize his personal thoughts is more proper of an academic essay. However, he has the ability to combine his personal experiences and opinions with the historical facts, inviting the reader to step into a different time and space, where the author's words translate into perceivable realities. But Interesting Times is not only an 'alternative' history of the Twentieth Century, it is also the history of the author and the evolution of his personality, thought, work, and ideology through time.
The constant question that Hobsbawm seems to try to answer, more to himself than to the author, is why did he stayed in the British Communist Party for such a long time, becoming one of the very few intellectuals to remain openly marxist even after the death of Stalin and the crisis of the Soviet Union and communism?
The answer to this question takes as to a journey which starts in his childhood and takes us all the way to Cuba and Latin America, and gives as the opportunity to meet Eric J. Hobsbawm the child, the student, the communist, the professor, and the man. Dec 08, Andrew added it Shelves: memoir. A memoir by one of the best historians of the 20th Century, which was entertaining enough, if nothing stunning.
As a memoirist, Hobsbawm writes with neither the probing introspection of a Henry Adams, nor the ability to splice together personal reality and historical event of an Angela Davis. You do get a complete portrait of the man, however, with the most interesting part of the text dedicated to prewar lower middle-class Jewish life in Berlin and Vienna, but for the rest, well, it was just to A memoir by one of the best historians of the 20th Century, which was entertaining enough, if nothing stunning.
You do get a complete portrait of the man, however, with the most interesting part of the text dedicated to prewar lower middle-class Jewish life in Berlin and Vienna, but for the rest, well, it was just too damn English for my tastes.
Read his four-part history of modernity if you haven't already, but Interesting Times was far from necessary reading. Nov 07, David M added it. Even while bowing to him as the greater historian, Anderson can barely contain his exasperation at times. View all 3 comments.
Oct 03, Mark Hebden rated it really liked it Shelves: history , politics. For those wanting to know more about the private life of the man there is little here to quench that thirst, but for those wanting to know how he came to be the public figure he was then there are stories in abundance. There are snippets of family life, particularly his early life, but once Hobsbawm becomes an adult and moves to England we are dropped heavily in to the world of the communist academic, writer, traveller and lover of jazz rather than the divorced, second time-wed father whom Hobsbawm doubts we would want to read about and by his own account is not very interesting.
When someone lives to the age of Eric Hobsbawm it is sometimes easy to forget the huge, global events that have occurred in their lifetime and from which they can speak with an observers authority. Two world wars, Suez, the rise of oil, the Marshall Plan and capitalisms inexorable rise, the fall of communism, the Cuban missile crisis, the fall and rise of the British and American empires, David Hasslehoff etc, there really are too many things to cram in to one volume.
In person he has never revoked his communism but in his academic work he has never let it cloud his work, I say work rather than judgement as it is not a historians place to judge.
Communism as an ideology for Hobsbawm remained pure and the folly of socialism in one country was destined to fail. He thought communism could deliver it and was wrong, but the innocence of his desire should not be undermined by petty academic squabbling and point scoring. He finishes by stating that he has no doubt that the defeat of Hitler was worth the horror of the Second World War, and echoing Niemoller insists that courageous people must still denounce and fight social injustice: "The world will not get better on its own.
Autobiografia estupenda. View 1 comment. I'd recommend reading Hobsbawm's history sooner than his autobiography. But maybe the fact that while always offering some nuggets, this book dragged a bit for me was my own ignorance, because when we got to the history of the UK that I actually lived through, I found this gripping. And I was surprised by Hobsbawm's position: I had not expected the almost lifelong communist to come down on the side of moderate Neil Kinnock over radical Tony Benn, for example.
Hobsbawm has an impressive internati I'd recommend reading Hobsbawm's history sooner than his autobiography. Hobsbawm has an impressive international perspective--he cites as an advantage his having been raised in Vienna and then Berlin at the time the Austro-Hungarian empire finally folded, the Weimar Republic collapsed, and Hitler rose to power.
He also is impressive in his determination to take what he describes as the historian's view, detached from the passions of the times; he meets head-on the failures of what was "actually existing" socialism and the success particularly of the US, and does not allow himself romanticized hopes, though neither had he become embittered to the extent that though pesssimistic, he still believes a better system and a better world can and should be striven for, even if the alternative is no longer the one he spent most of his life committed to.
Jul 24, Grig O' rated it it was amazing Shelves: kindle. They should've just used the subtitle as a main title. My favourite quote would have to be: If phyisical mobility is an essential condition of freedom, the bicycle has probably been the greatest single device for achieving what Marx called the full realization of the possibilities of being human invented since Gutenberg, and the only one without obvious drawbacks.
Sep 01, John rated it really liked it. Reading this made me think that really, I should be reading a pseudo-autobiography like this for every eminent historian. Because it apparently is not enough to know that the man is a "marxist historian. Hobsbawm is more than simply Marxist- he has been a communist since the age of 13 and remained a communist while almost everybody else around him dropped out over the course of the 20th century. He makes it sound here, basically, like he supports pretty much any in Reading this made me think that really, I should be reading a pseudo-autobiography like this for every eminent historian.
He makes it sound here, basically, like he supports pretty much any insurrection at all as long as it vaguely corresponds with Marxist principles. Even terroristic groups, kidnapping and bombing and the like Hobsbawm seems to have been very fellow traveler-y about them.
For example, he mentions being visited by friends in the 60s? I'm not saying it is bad that EH is a commie. Hey, he enlisted in the 30s, as fascism was on the rise and all that But I'm glad I know this about him so I can keep it in my mind while I read his books. It really is kind of amazing that EH was willing to lay it all out here like this- his entire belief structure, his opinion on events in many countries around the world, his unvarnished critiques of his contemporaries You would think that even in his 80s he might have a tendency to be tactful, but apparently not.
Admirable, really. I think I'm more likely to read his work now than I would have been otherwise. Feb 03, Ferda Nihat Koksoy rated it it was amazing Shelves: history. Dec 01, Chris Anderson rated it liked it. Hobsbawm himself admits that the book gets less interesting once he finally hits the big time in terms of his own fame, and it largely becomes a series of anecdotes chronicling his travels to various countries and meeting various communist and guerrilla luminaries.
Most reviewers are right: he never satisfactorily explains why he stuck w communism, but a friend of mine summed it up. He was just stubborn. Seems like a bad reason to embrace an ideology but hey, there are dumber reasons I guess. Mar 01, Dale rated it really liked it Shelves: history , politics , nonfiction.
An interesting life, to be sure. Three things: 1. His analysis of the 60s was interesting. Basically: the worldwide student revolt in the 60s was not really political in nature: it was a sort of personal and cultural revolt, nothing more, and nothing that posed any threat to the existing order.
His position during the disastrous rise of Thatcherism and the implosion of Labour. He favored "tactical voting", and saw the main goal as being the defeat of Thatcher, and had no patience with the secta An interesting life, to be sure.
He favored "tactical voting", and saw the main goal as being the defeat of Thatcher, and had no patience with the sectarians on the left who wanted to maintain their ideological purity. I would undoubtedly have been among the sectarians, had I been British, but I see Hobsbawm's point.
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Eric Hobsbawm is considered by many to be our greatest living historian. Hitler came to power as 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 saw the body of Stalin, started the modern history of banditry and is probably the only Marxist asked to collaborate with the inventor of the Mars bar. Hobsbawm takes us from Britain to the countries and cultures of Europe, to America which he appreciated first through movies and jazz , to Latin America, Chile, India and the Far East. With Interesting Times , we see the history of the twentieth century through the unforgiving eye of one of its most intensely engaged participants, the incisiveness of whose views we cannot afford to ignore in a world in which history has come to be increasingly forgotten. Read An Excerpt.
An extraordinary life
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Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life
The reputation of Eric Hobsbawm as the leading Marxist historian is so formidable that it has become removed from flesh and blood. Many readers of his autobiography will expect long patches of intellectual analysis and self-justification. But the fascination of his story lies in seeing his ideas emerging from his experience and cultural background with a natural humanity; and Hobsbawm is much more self-critical and candid about his mistakes than most practical politicians who write their memoirs. His intellectual development was primarily the product of his unusual circumstances: he was brought up in Vienna and Berlin at a time when the Russian revolution in - the year of his birth - was still an unspoilt dream, when the Communist party seemed the natural home for a clever and sensitive Jewish boy appalled by the rise of Hitler. When he came to England as a schoolboy in , he was able to acquire a much broader and highly literate education, first at Marylebone Grammar School, then at pre-war Cambridge when it was at two peaks - of intellectual achievement, and of communist influence. He thus combined the political passions of a central European, who had watched with anguish the disintegration of the Weimar republic and the Austro-Hungarian empire, with an exposure to sceptical British academics and to wide cultural interests, which gave a special quality to his writing of history. Many of Hobsbawm's readers have been attracted to his historical books, not by his Marxism, but by his superb ability to combine mastery of economic statistics with a witty and engrossing narrative style.