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Karl Marx

Karl Marx [Kindle Edition]

Francis Wheen
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Karl Marx, whose influence on modern times has been compared to that of Jesus Christ, spent most of his lifetime in obscurity. Penniless, exiled in London, estranged from relations and on the run from most of the police forces of Europe, his ambitions as a revolutionary were frequently thwarted and his major writings on politics and economics remained unpublished (in some cases until after the Second World War). He has not lacked biographers, but even the most distinguished have been more interested in the evolution of his ideas than any other aspect of his life. Francis Wheen's fresh, lively and moving biography of Marx considers the whole man--brain, beard and the rest of his body. Unencumbered by ideological point-scoring, this is a very readable, humorous and sympathetic account. A Guardian columnist, Wheen has an ear for juicy gossip and an eye for original detail. Marx comes over as a hell-raising bohemian, an intellectual bully and a perceptive critic of capitalist chaos, but also a family man of Victorian conformity personally vetting his daughters' suitors, Victorian ailments (carbuncles above all) and Victorian weaknesses, notably alcohol, tobacco and, on occasion, his housekeeper. But there is great pathos, too, as Marx witnessed the deaths of four of his six children. For those readers who feel Marxism has given Marx a bad name, this is a rewarding and enlightening book. --Miles Taylor


'I'll read anything by Francis Wheen, even a biography of Karl Marx, and my trust was not misplaced: the simple elegance of the writing, and Wheen's ability to winkle humour out of the most unpromising, results in a book which is far more pleasurable than anyone had the right to expect.' -- Nick Hornby, Guardian

'If you always thought the grim, bearded prophet of the collapse of capitalism was a figure far beyond any kind of joke, then think again ... The result is more less unmitigated delight.' -- Niall Ferguson, Mail on Sunday

'Wheen wears his considerable learning about Marx's career with the lapidary lightness of a fine columnist, and can be as witty and quotable as his subject. It is a boldly unfashionable book, but a delightful one.' -- Terry Eagleton, Observer

A magnificently lively, compulsively readable book . . . Wheen's triumph' A.N.Wilson, Spectator 'Stunning ... witty, subtle and beautifully written ... Wheen's Karl is a warm, rumbustious, impulsive, irresponsible, bumbling giant with a big heart and a vast ego.' -- Independent

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 789 KB
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (28 Jun 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008CBDES4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #51,239 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Francis Wheen is an author and journalist who was named Columnist of the Year for his contributions to the Guardian. He a regular contributor to Private Eye and is the author of several books, including a highly acclaimed biography of Karl Marx which has been translated into twenty languages and the bestselling How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World. He recently wrote the screenplay for The Lavender List, a biopic of Harold Wilson's last days in government. His collected journalism, Hoo-Hahs and Passing Frenzies, won the George Orwell prize in 2003.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl Marx: By Francis Wheen. 5 Jan 2012
This is a very good biography of the eminent thinker and social philosopher - Karl Marx (1818-1893) - who, (despite being born in Prussia), spent the last 30 years or so, of his life living in London (UK). During this, and with the assistance of the library, which was then situated in the British Museum, Marx produced some of his most influencial work regarding the history of political economy, and was an important member of the First International, founded in 1864, being elected to the General Council, which he would eventually lead. No biography of Karl Marx would be complete without a considerable amount of biographical details of Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), the wealthy son of a successful business who continuously offered moral and financial support to Marx and his family, throughout his life.

The hardback (1999) edition contains 431 numbered pages and consists of an Introduction and 12 distinct chapters, as well as 3 Postscripts:

1) The Outsider.
2) The Little Wild Boar.
3) The Grass-eating King.
4) The Mouse in the Attic.
5) The Frightful Hobgoblin.
6) The Megalosaurus.
7) The Hungry Wolves.
8) The Hero on Horseback.
9) The Buildings and the Hyena.
10) The Shaggy Dog.
11) The Rogue Elephant.
12) The Shaven Porcupine.
Postscript 1: Consequences.
Postscript 2: Confessions.
Postscripy 3: Regicide.

This is a highly accessible rendering of the life of Karl Marx, his family, friends, enemies and colleagues and associates.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I cannot agree with the one and two star ratings on this book. It is definitely a five-star.
I studied Marx at University for my Philosophy degree, 20 years ago.
I found the book excellent. No, not for its explanation of Marx's theories. Those who want that are looking in the wrong place. Look to McLellean for that. This is a biography. The readers that complain about its lack of substance of Marx's theories need to note that.
Even so, it would be a useful compliment to some of McLelleans work as it puts the writings in context. I wish it was around when I was studying Marx. I would recommend it to any new Marx scholar.
It is sympathetic to Marx, which is rare, yet it revealed information which those who are sympathetic may not wish to hear, e.g. Marx's seemingly contradictory middle-class values.
Overall, an excellent book and it has rekindled my interest in Marx and Engels.
(PS. My email address is real. I just happened to find it available!)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Honest 11 Sep 2011
As said in other reviews, this a biography not a critique of his theories. And what a biography! Its extremely well-written, and highly interesting - I read it over a couple of sittings as I just couldn't put it down; not the reaction I'd expected when I first started reading. Its a sympathetic account of Marx's life, without indulging in hero-worship. Wheen's expertise on Marx shines through, but so do his wit and humour. The book is also fascinating about many of the other individuals in Marx's life, and as soon as I finished this I bought Tristram Hunt's biography of Engels.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Little Dynamo! 18 Jan 2002
By A Customer
I never knew Karl Marx was so much fun! Here Herr Marx leaps from the pages destroying enemies with invective, scorn and stinging wit; loving his wife and family as a kindly paterfamilias; continually, hideously and pitifully suffering from the most wretched physical health; and drinking, (!) excessively, with fellow left wing lights. Francis Wheen gives us a Marx we can love whilst setting to right many of the myths that have grown-up about Marx. He, in particular, pays attention to his dismissal by British Academia correting many false assumptions about him. Marx is more a prophet than a destructive Red Terror. He is more a wit, than a tedious economist. He is more creator than destroyer. A very fine and interesting read that moves along in an attractive, zestful prose style with an enlightening amount of intellectual stimulation. Brilliant!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but with a few flaws. 14 April 2008
Francis Wheen's biography of Marx is excellent. It's witty, realistic, sympathetic, well written, easily read and thoroughly enjoyable - so read it.

Usually, Marx is caricatured as either a wild eyed revolutionary lunatic or a dry academic who spent his life in the British Museum. He was, of course, neither.

What is very clear from Wheen's book, is the fact that Marx was a practising revolutionary as well as a theorist. Marx would throw his energies into the waves of revolutionary political activity that occurred during the 1840's and again at the end of the 1860's/early 1870's. When these waves were defeated, Marx would retreat into theoretical study in order to learn the lessons and hone the theoretical understandings he hoped would enable the working class to liberate itself and, thus, humanity.

Unfortunately, I think Wheen adopts a rather mocking tone towards Marx's political activities which I think detracts from his biography.

Marx also comes out of Wheen's book as a human being with all the strengths and weaknesses present in all of us, complete with binge drinking and an illegitimate son, not at all the distorted figure at the centre of a Stalinist personality cult.

I had started reading 'Capital' and had just read the first three, apparently most difficult, chapters before feeling in need of a break by reading something else. One of my 'something elses' was Wheen's biography, which motivated me to go back to reading 'Capital'. It's a great introduction to Marx the man and to his ideas.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
The founder of Marxism something I am studying at University over the next 3 years. I have a lot to read over the summer months but again shall enjoy reading this book.
Published 3 months ago by Honeybun
5.0 out of 5 stars It's okay with my dad so it's okay with me.
Bought for my dad who loves social history. I don't understand why these reviews have to have so many words.
Published 8 months ago by Estherbunny
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - scholarly and witty biography of a fascinating historical...
Magnificent, absorbing page-turner with a perfect balance of irreverence, wit, affection and respect for the Great Man. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Adam Routh
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and makes you want more of the man and philosophy in...
Wheen has a great way with his words and subjects. Marx emerges as a fascinating mind and man, far more accessible than you might think(!). Read more
Published 12 months ago by Happy Dog owner
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, pithy, and readable
It's remarkable that Francis Wheen manages to fit so much into 383 pages of biography. As well as a good account of Marx's life, there's explanation of his thoughts and theories in... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Guy
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography
A very well written biography which shows Marx warts (carbuncles?) and all. I think the old fella himself would chuckle at the humour which the author uses. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mr. J. P. Russell
1.0 out of 5 stars Mass Graves
"The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Neil G. Everitt
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely balanced book
This book was a pleasure to read and I would find myself wanting to read it all the time.
It is indeed a biography and does not go into to much of the exact theories of his... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mr. Clayton L. Hill
2.0 out of 5 stars Witty and entertaining? Perhaps that is not enough.
I disagree with the general fulsome praise of this book and entirely agree with the points made by Michael Gannon in his review. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mr N.
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking depth
Francis Wheen has rightly been known as a fine and entertaining columnist and I came to this biography of Karl Marx hoping to find a fresh approach to an historical figure that... Read more
Published on 17 Dec 2011 by Michael Gannon
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