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The Year Gone By


2004 has been a good year for The Book Review. Over four hundred books on history, sociology, anthropology, gender studies, literature, travel, art and culture—apart from nearly a hundred titles for children—reviewed over twelve months can truly be described as providing a ‘window to the world of books’. Special issues for the World Book Fair, on South Asia and Children’s Books make the set of 12 issues of Volume XXVIII collector’s items. However, for every book that we manage to have reviewed, there are at lest ten others clamouring for space. And space is at a premium at all times in The Book Review which is why a decision in principle was taken a few months ago to make the frequency a fortnightly. The change was planned for the New Year. However we have had to put it on hold just for a few months because something truly fantastic happened in the history of The Book Review Literary Trust. Professor Eric Hobsbawm, one of the greatest living historians of our times, when contacted in London, accepted the Trust’s invitation to come to India in December and deliver the Second Nikhil Chakravartty Memorial Lecture. As readers would recall, the first lecture had been delivered in 1999 by Professor Amartya Sen soon after he won the Nobel. That had been proving a very hard act to follow. However Professor Hobsbawm’s acceptance has generated an immense amount of excitement among academics, students and admirers of his works. His vision of history sweeping over three centuries—in the Age of Empire, Age of Revolution, Age of Extremes among others—and his autobiography—Interesting Times—published in 2004, have been avidly read by the historian and the booklover alike. An immense curiosity—a must for a historian as he believes—”a historian is never on a holiday, he is always learning something by asking questions”—Professor Hobsbawm at 87 stands on a peak from where, like the seers of yore, he looks at the past and tries to show to his readers the lessons that could be learnt for the future. The Book Review Literary Trust organized three events for Professor Hobsbawm in New Delhi between the 14th and 21st of December. The first was an interaction with scholars across disciplines—”In Conversation with Eric Hobsbawm”—at the India International Centre. The Second Nikhil Chakravartty Memorial Lecture entitled “War, Peace and World Hegemony in ...

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