'Almost alone among contemporary critics, Tzvetan Todorov has chosen to apply his prodigious talents to the literature of twentieth-century totalitarianism. His unique gift is his ability to elucidatethe memoirs and writings of some of the century's greatest survivors, not merely discovering their literary qualities, but also finding in their works moral and political lessons, relevant to us all.' -- Anne Applebaum
Tzvetan Todorov identifies totalitarianism as the major innovation of the twentieth century and examines the struggle between this system and democracy and its effects on human life and consciousness.
Totalitarianism imposed itself because, more than any other political system, it played on people's need for the absolute: it fed their hope to endow life with meaning by taking part in the construction of a paradise on earth. As a result, millions of people lost their lives in the name of a higher good. This unique account explores the history of the past century by analyzing its spectacular political conflicts and by offering moving profiles of individuals who, at great personal cost, resisted the strictures of the communist and Nazi regimes. Hope and Memory reaffirms the legacy of the past as we move into the twenty-first century.
'A very rich book, full of interesting - and often highly controversial - conversation as well as moving portraits of striking figures of the century that has just passed. It is addressed to a general public very much engaged in discussing what the twentieth century was all about and where we are going from here.' -- Charles Taylor