Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ideas and people

Two fine books I have read recently were both suggested by a friend with whom I exchange such notes.

Peter Watson published A Terrible Beauty: The People and Ideas that Shaped the Modern Mind — A History in 2000. Either this book is not as widely talked of as it deserves, or maybe it is and I missed out because the subject does not make for casual browsing. In any event, it is surely a very significant work. It is a history of the 20th century, but treated quite differently. Watson takes a decade at a time, starting with the 1900s and working up to the 1990s, which is quite usual.

But his worldview springs from ideas, and the interplay of ideas across disciplines, to sketch out a narrative of the last century like a story. I was amazed by the range of ideas the author must have had to deal with, from psychology and pop art to mathematics and physics, from poetry and philosophy to genetics, et alia. It is an extraordinary feat of scholarship for an individual to span these divergent areas of human thought, to distil and then synthesise their interplay in a very readable narrative.

Full report here Business Standard

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