Left Book Club Anthology

Left Book Club Anthology

  • Paperback
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The Left Book Club is something of a legend. Founded by Victor Gollancz in 1936 to distribute cheap, radical books, it was a spectacular success, with nearly 60,000 members at its peak. Taxi drivers and accountants suddenly started reading Marxist polemics; discussion groups sprang up in nearly every town in the country. Gollancz's publishing scheme became an influential political movement, attacking Fascism at home and abroad. Always controversial, its famous orange volumes told stories of life in Britain's industrial towns, rebellion in Hitler's Germany and heroism in the Spanish Civil War. The Club also became the focus for a bewildering amount of cultural activity ' theatre, film, travel, country dancing, rambling, poetry-reading. This anthology goes back to the monthly selections themselves and recaptures the fervour and idealism of the 1930s ' the 'Red Decade'. It includes extracts from many of the Club's most popular books, including Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, Koestler's Spanish Testament, Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China and Wilfred Macartney's Walls Have Mouths, a sensational' account of eight years inside Parkhurst by one of the century's most inept spies. Paul Laity introduces each extract and contributes an excellent general introduction explaining the political and cultural context of the Club.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 129 x 198mm
  • Orion Publishing Co
  • Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0753813750
  • 9780753813751

About Paul Laity

Paul Laity is a senior editor at the London Review of Books.show more

Review Text

According to Marxist writer and co-founder of the Left Book Club John Strachey, the club 'could only have happened at the present moment'. That moment was 1936, and barrister Stafford Cripps, publisher Victor Gollancz and Strachey met to discuss what could be done to 'revitalise and educate the British left...help in the struggle for world peace and a better social and economic order, and against fascism.' The club was an instant and resounding success: 2000 subscribers were required to make it commercially viable but more than 6000 had signed up by the end of the first month, a number that would climb to 40000 within its first year and by 1939 to 57000. Members were required to buy one book a month for at least six months and could choose from a broad selection of topics that included Freud, genetics, life in prison, and, of course, fascism. Before long, Club members were meeting in local groups, the crisis in Spain inspiring them to fundraising and other activities, one member declaring that : 'apart from making us read and think, the Left Book Club is making us 'do'!' This collection, the last book to be published by the firm of Gollancz, includes extracts from 13 key works, from Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, through Koestler's Spanish Testament to Odets' Waiting for Lefty, all of them capturing the idealism and zeal of the 30s. (Kirkus UK)show more