The world changed faster during the 20th century than ever before. All our previous assumptions about God, our social, economic and political structures, science and technology, and - by extension - ourselves and our culture were utterly transformed. The 20th century was the century that dared to question everything – and its progress is told in this tour de force.
'Modern Times' are explored through the cultural expressions - in art, in literature, in music - of the true conviction that we lived through an unprecedentedly testing period in human experience. 'Modern Places' are the locations that became the frontiers of modernity - cities like Vienna, Moscow, Paris and Berlin, new worlds in the Americas, and a preview of a possible future in Moscow.
Did it all happen too fast and go too far? Modernity was like a rollercoaster ride, during which the human race jested with disaster and delighted in the havoc created by the play of g-forces. But despite the dangers that were unleashed along the way, with the clear perspective Peter Conrad provides on a phase of history that has only recently passed, we are much the better prepared to confront the new millennium. By making sense of our immediate past, this book aims to carry us forward through the 21st century.
'Conrad is stunningly well-informed, compulsively allusive and equipped with the kind of imagination that transforms the base metal of contemporary history into pure gold '
Robert McCrum, Observer
'A blockbuster of a book, a work which will inspire admiration and wonder … writing with equal assurance about poetry, novels, painting, architecture, film and music '
'… a book with everything in it, a fascinating melange, going in all directions at once'
Hanif Kureishi, Guardian (Books of the Year)
'Tells the story of modern cultural history with unflagging freshness, and without an ounce of surplus stylistic fat'
Terry Eagleton, London Review of Books