THIS IS NOT the first book, by any means, that sets due to answer the riddle of the twentieth century: How was it possible, in an age that prided itself on social progress and scientific advance, that Europe could be plunged into total war twice and spawn totalitarian regimes bloodier than any other in history? Not the first, but almost certainly one of the most challenging. After reading this provocative and supremely intelligent explanation, the paradoxes of the last century start to become comprehensible.
Todorov takes as his main theme totalitarianism. This is, he believes, the essential, fundamental 'event' of the century because it juxtaposed a repressive and vicious collectivism against the humanistic and individualist heritage at the heart of modern pluralist democracy. He experienced totalitarianism at first hand as a young man brought