Saturday, September 23, 2017

Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life

The formation of a Marxist historian. From The Wire:
Seventy years after his mother died, Eric Hobsbawm recalled the last time he had seen her. The year was 1931, a lovely, sun-drenched summer was settling over Vienna’s magnificent public gardens, and Nelly Grun Hobsbawm had just been transferred to a sanatorium in Purkersdorf, west of the city, as it became clear that the end was close. The son remembered how emaciated his mother looked. Not knowing what to say or do, the 14-year-old Hobsbawm “glanced out of the window and saw a hawfinch, a small bird with a beak strong enough to crack cherry stones that I had never seen before and for which I had been on the lookout. So my last memory of her is not one of grief but of ornithological pleasure.”

A sense of wonder, of a joie de vivre that blends with and tempers grief, exploring new lives, new horizons all the time, underpins Hobsbawm’s autobiography, Interesting Times. No doubt the book tells the story of a life lived largely in the shadow of mephitic clouds that hung over what Hobsbawm himself memorably called ‘the age of extremes’. His childhood and early youth found Hobsbawm in the eye of the storm that was raging across Austria and Germany in the inter-war years. A Jew, to boot a young communist activist, he heard of Hitler’s anointment as the German chancellor while on his way home from school, along with his younger sister, one bleak January afternoon in 1933 Berlin when it snowed endlessly in a spell of unusually cold winter weather. (Read more.)

1 comment:

julygirl said...

No one could even begin to imagine the horrors that were yet to come. A Century that began with such promise spiraled into the pits of atheism, murder and human rights violations which continue to this day in the form of aborted fetuses that number in the millions.