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 spy master 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.
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. He shows us the history of the twentieth, and the battles of arms and ideology that were fought during it, through the unforgiving eye of one of its most intensely engaged participants.