Terrible Beauty: A Cultural History of the Twentieth Century

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781780226736

Price: £18.99

ON SALE: 17th October 2013

Genre: Society & Social Sciences / Society & Culture: General

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‘Breathtakingly entertaining, endlessly instructive, irresistibly enjoyable’ THE TIMES

‘A tour de force … breathtaking’ SPECTATOR

‘A magnificent achievement’ LITERARY REVIEW

TERRIBLE BEAUTY presents a unique narrative of the twentieth century. Unlike more conventional histories, where the focus is on political events and personalities, on wars, treaties and elections, this book concentrates on the ideas that made the century so rich, rewarding and provocative. Beginning with four seminal ideas which were introduced in 1900 – the unconscious, the gene, the quantum and Picasso’s first paintings in Paris – the book brings together the main areas of thought and juxtaposes the most original and influential ideas of our time in an immensely readable narrative.

From the creation of plastic to Norman Mailer, from the discovery of the ‘Big Bang’ to the Counterculture, from Relativity to Susan Sontag, from Proust to Salman Rushdie, and Henri Bergson to Saul Bellow, the book’s range is encyclopaedic. We meet in these pages the other twentieth century, the writers, the artists, the scientists and philosophers who were not cowed by the political and military disasters raging around them, and produced some of the most amazing and rewarding ideas by which we live. Terrible Beauty, endlessly stimulating and provocative, affirms that there was much more to the twentieth century than war and genocide.


A tour de force of monumental proportions ... flawlessly, mesmerically narrative ... its capacity to engage is almost intoxicating
Breathtakingly entertaining, endlessly instructive, irresistibly enjoyable
A TERRIBLE BEAUTY is a magnificent achievement, highly readable, absorbing and stimulating
This mammoth history of 20th-century ideas is a tour de force, the product of omnivorous reading and encyclopaedic erudition ... Watson is a highly talented populariser with a gift for precis
A brilliant concept ... I am lost in admiration