Karl Marx

Karl Marx

4.02 (973 ratings by Goodreads)
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A major biography of the man who, more than any other, made the twentieth century. Written by an author of great repute. The history of the 20th century is Marx's legacy. Not since Jesus Christ has an obscure pauper inspired such global devotion - or been so calamitously misinterpreted. The end of the century is a good moment to strip away the mythology and try to rediscover Marx the man. There have been many thousands of books on Marxism, but almost all are written by academics and zealots for whom it is a near blaspemy to treat him as a figure of flesh and blood. In the past few years there have been excellent and successful biographies of many eminent Victorians and yet the most influential of them has remained untouched. In this book Francis Wheen, for the first time, presens Marx the man in all his brilliance and frailty - as a poverty-stricken Prussian emigre who became a middle-class English gentleman; as an angry agitator who spent much of his adult life in scholarly silence in the British Museum Reading Room; as a gregarious and convivial host who fell out with almost all his friends; as a devoted family man who impregnated his housemaid; as a deeply earnest philosopher who loved drink, cigars and jokes.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 450 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 30mm | 358.34g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1841151149
  • 9781841151144
  • 188,055

Review Text

Superb life of the thinker who, for better or worse, molded the 20th century.Marx once proclaimed, famously, that he was not a Marxist. If pressed, British journalist Wheen would probably claim Marxist credentialsif of a distinctly irreverent stripe. (For example, his extraordinarily well-conceived biography of communisms guiding light is probably the first to press the comedy troupe Monty Python into exegetical service.) Wheens satirical edge does not, however, make his study any less serious; it is as well-documented as Isaiah Berlins 1963 biographyand certainly more interesting to read. Marx, Wheen allows, was a paradoxical sort: a Jew who disavowed Judaism; an ardent moralist who fathered an illegitimate child by a servant; a communist firebrand who lived well beyond his means and aggressively mooched off well-to-do acquaintances (especially his forbearing colleague Friedrich Engels). But Marx was also fearless, unafraid of a good fight, and accustomed to a life in which grubby police spies from Prussia lurked all too conspicuously outside, keeping note of the comings and goings, while irate butchers and bakers and bailiffs hammered on the door. Wheen makes a number of useful revisions to the historical record; whereas many biographers paint Marxs relationship with the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin as a bitter and hateful rivalry, Wheen documents that the two were friendly in person and borrowed liberally from one anothers store of ideas. Engels emerges from the record, too, with his reputation restored: in Wheens pages he is not the toady of other biographies, but a critical and thoughtfulif sometimes beeryparticipant in the shaping of Marxs thought. Wheen takes vigorous issue with those countless wiseacres who, on one hand declare that Marxs thought leads directly to the Gulag and, on the other, hold that Marxs ideas are irrelevant to the modern, postCold War world. Neither view, Wheen holds, is correctand neither is useful to reckoning the extent of Marxs role in making the world in which we live.Respectful yet non-hagiographic, Wheens life of Marx deserves a wide readership. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Francis Wheen

Francis Wheen is a distinguished author and journalist who was voted Columnist of the Year in February 1997 for his weekly column in the Guardian. He has written several books including the highly acclaimed biography of Tom Driberg MP, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread prize.show more

Rating details

973 ratings
4.02 out of 5 stars
5 33% (323)
4 42% (413)
3 19% (185)
2 4% (39)
1 1% (13)

Our customer reviews

This biography of Karl Marx is a great read. The thorough research dispels inaccuracies in other books about Marx. Marx lead such an interesting and hard life, and toward the end of the book I just couldn't put it down.show more
by John Brunton
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