Susan Pedersen at the LRB:
Was Eric Hobsbawm interested in himself? Not, I think, so very much. He had a more than healthy ego and enough self-knowledge to admit it, but all his curiosity was turned outward – towards problems, politics, literatures, languages, landscapes. Never without a book, whether bound for a tutorial or the local A&E, for decades he disappeared off for tramping holidays or conferences anywhere from Catalonia to Cuba the moment term ended. One friend, on holiday in southern Italy in 1957, saw two men in a field and said to her husband: ‘But look, it’s Eric!’ And, she recalled, ‘it really was Eric, with a peasant. He was interviewing the peasant.’
Untrammelled curiosity is an excellent quality in a historian – none better – but it has to be turned inward if one attempts autobiography. At the insistence of his friends, publisher and agent, Hobsbawm did write an autobiography, but Interesting Times, published in 2002, when he was 85, is almost comically unrevealing.