Fractured Times

Eric Hobsbawm

Fractured Times

Born almost a hundred years ago in Vienna - the cultural heart of a bourgeois Mitteleurope - Eric Hobsbawm, who was to become one of the most brilliant and original historians of our age, was uniquely placed to observe an era of titanic social and artistic change. As the century progressed the forces of Communism and Dadaism, Ibiza and cyberspace, would do battle with the bourgeois high culture fin-de-siecle Vienna represented - the opera, the Burgtheater, the museums of art and science, City Hall. In Fractured Times Hobsbawm unpicks a century of cultural fragmentation and dissolution with characteristic verve and vigour. Hobsbawm examines the conditions that created the great cultural flowering of the belle epoque and held the seeds of its disintegration, from paternalistic capitalism to globalisation and the arrival of a mass consumer society. 3.5 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Fractured Times

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre History, Society, Politics & Philosophy
Format
Pages
RRP
Date of Publication March 2013
ISBN 978-1408704288
Publisher Little, Brown
 

Born almost a hundred years ago in Vienna - the cultural heart of a bourgeois Mitteleurope - Eric Hobsbawm, who was to become one of the most brilliant and original historians of our age, was uniquely placed to observe an era of titanic social and artistic change. As the century progressed the forces of Communism and Dadaism, Ibiza and cyberspace, would do battle with the bourgeois high culture fin-de-siecle Vienna represented - the opera, the Burgtheater, the museums of art and science, City Hall. In Fractured Times Hobsbawm unpicks a century of cultural fragmentation and dissolution with characteristic verve and vigour. Hobsbawm examines the conditions that created the great cultural flowering of the belle epoque and held the seeds of its disintegration, from paternalistic capitalism to globalisation and the arrival of a mass consumer society.

How to Change the World by Eric Hobsbawm

Reviews

The New Statesman

Jonathan Derbyshire

Reviewing a book by his fellow historian Raphael Samuel about the “lost world of British communism”, Eric Hobsbawm praised Samuel for his “melancholy empathy for an irrecoverable past”. Fractured Times displays a similar quality — though it evinces melancholy empathy not for the milieu of the British Communist Party, which he joined when he arrived in England from Berlin as a 15-year-old in 1933, but for the art and culture of the “bourgeois society” that disappeared after the outbreak of the First World War.

09/04/2013

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The Observer

Nick Cohen

Fractured Times shows this revolutionary traditionalist at his best … None of Hobsbawm's excuse-making for communism appears here ... Fractured Times is not a fully worked book but a collection of essays from the 1960s on. I wish Hobsbawm had found the time to reconsider some of his judgments before he died.

31/03/2013

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The Financial Times

Mark Mazower

... the real interest of Fractured Times, I think, lies in what it tells us about the man himself, and the reminder it gives us of what an unusual and important historian he was ... Hobsbawm’s argumentativeness, playful in its own way, is much in evidence here and one has to pinch oneself to recall that some of these pieces were written by a man aged over 90.

29/03/2013

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The Guardian

Richard J Evans

[His Marxism] did not prevent him from treating them ["rural bandits and peasant millenarians"] with a sympathy and fascination far removed from the "enormous condescension" of a dogmatic Marxist posterity. These qualities are nowhere more apparent than in the faint but distinctly discernible nostalgia of the brilliant essays on Jewish life in central Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries ... Hobsbawm's pessimism comes through in many of the essays in this book more clearly than in any other work he published after the fall of communism ... Nevertheless, his vision of culture's future is too gloomy.

23/03/2013

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The Literary Review

John Gray

Dealing mainly with cultural issues, the present volume has a bottom-drawer feel … they are mostly rather worthy pieces and not especially illuminating. It would nonetheless be wrong to read this as no more than a rag-bag of odds and ends, for it contains a recurring theme: the disappearance of the high bourgeois European civilisation, the aftermath of which he witnessed as a child in Vienna in the 1920s.

01/03/2013

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The Spectator

Sam Leith

A shame that in a collection that contains so many very good things the weakest section is the first one, in which the author looks at the arts of the present and (with a show of reluctance) predicts the future ... But then, as he goes back in time, the essays catch fire … They remind us that Hobsbawn didn’t only have a commanding knowledge of the history of the ‘short 20th century’: he lived it, and he gave it a name.

23/03/2013

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The Daily Telegraph

Alex Massie

This final collection of essays, a compilation of scraps and leftovers cobbled together from public lectures and previously published articles, has an elegiac quality. It is, chiefly, about failure. The failure of power, the failure of art and the failure of modernity. Even so, readers hoping for a final showdown between Hobsbawm’s unabashed communism and the reality of the Soviet Union’s own failure will be disappointed. Then again, why should Hobsbawm be expected to satisfy his critics with a deathbed confession or recantation?

27/03/2013

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The Sunday Telegraph

Noel Malcolm

My advice would be to abandon hope of finding deep new insights, and concentrate instead on the essays where Hobsbawm’s real talents and expertise are firmly on display: the ones about how European Jews entered the cultural mainstream in the 19th century; his celebration of the maverick Viennese writer Karl Kraus; and, most stimulating of all, the account of the origins, European as well as American, of the cultural myth of the cowboy. Whatever else it may be, this must be the only book by a world-famous historian to include references to “Mohican” haircuts, and the complete text of an advert for a Ralph Lauren men’s cologne called “Chaps”.

25/03/2013

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