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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl Marx: By Francis Wheen.
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...
Published on 5 Jan 2012 by ShiDaDao Ph.D

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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly saggy souffle
Francis Wheen writes with great flair and humour, but Marx ultimately defeats him. When Wheen is happiest he is guying his subject. The Marx who emerges from the book is thin-skinned, self-pitying, devious and hypochondriacal. Meat and drink to the satirist. Unfortunately for Wheen Marx also one of the great political and historical thinkers of his and our time...
Published on 2 Jan 2000


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl Marx: By Francis Wheen., 5 Jan 2012
This review is from: Karl Marx (Hardcover)
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:

Introduction.
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.
Acknowledgements.
Endnotes.
Index.

This is a highly accessible rendering of the life of Karl Marx, his family, friends, enemies and colleagues and associates. Wheen, wherever possible, appears sympathetic to Karl Marx, particularly where other biographers have allowed unfounded prejudice and the deliberate misreading of events to seep into their respective narratives. In this respect, Wheen introduces the reader to other authors and their accounts of the life of Karl Marx. This book is not a comprehensive presentation of the academic output of Karl Marx, although, of course, the author has to mention briefly major aspects of that work, to give the biography a sense of gravitas. This is the life story of Karl Marx, a man with a brilliant mind who created a narrative through study that clearly shows the historical development of modern capitalism, and the exploitative nature of that development. This genius is juxtaposed with the details of, by comparison, the mundane, everyday life of Marx and those who shared it with him. He was never rich, often broke, a number of his off-spring died in their yearly, there is a rumour that he fathered a child with the family maid, his wife gave up a life of luxury to follow him, and when he died, his official designation was that of a 'Stateless Person'. This book is very well written and a very good introduction to the life of Karl Marx.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty and entertaining, sympathetic yet honest., 4 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Karl Marx (Hardcover)
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
By 
Glasgow Reader (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Karl Marx (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Karl Marx (Paperback)
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
By 
This review is from: Karl Marx (Paperback)
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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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book, you bluffers!, 17 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Karl Marx (Hardcover)
Everyone used to think Marx long-dead leftie beardie bore who wrote impenetrable tomes no one could be bothered to read. Now you don't have to! Author reveals KM actually genial if sometimes crusty old cove who liked a pint and had boils on bum, just like you & me! Not his fault if works later misinterpreted by assorted mass-murderers, eg J Stalin, M Tse Tung, P Pot, etc. So what if the Communist Manifesto didn't come true? Neither did New Labour's! Top Marx, Francis!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Humanising look at Charlie Marx, 11 Aug 2008
By 
R. Jones (Europe) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Karl Marx (Paperback)
Karl Marx has often been described as one of the most evil men ever to have lived. Indeed, there is a book listed on amazon entitled "Was Karl Marx a Satanist?" Responsible for Stalin? For North Korea? This book paints a different picture. What Wheen has done here is to reveal the man behind the monster. From his yearly days at university filled with drinking and youthful discussion on philosophy in smoke filled rooms, to social agitator and someone disgusting by the inhumanity of capitalism and Prussian state dictatorship, and to a loving and doting father and husband in his mature years, Marx Comes across as throughly likable. Whether you are a fascist, a communist, a liberal, a socialist, a conservative or whatever label you attach to yourself, you will love this book. When I first read it, I wished that he were still alive so that we could go for a pint. Oh well, I still have this magnificent biography.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Francis Demystifies Marx, 7 April 2009
By 
This review is from: Karl Marx (Paperback)
Francis Wheen's anti-dogmatic biography of Marx is a refreshing look at the life of a man whose work has continued to impact the course of political life and our understanding of the system of capital. The most positive aspect of Wheen's approach is that at last we have a writer who can approach Charlie Marx as a human, with human problems, human shortcomings and failings, and yet show that none of these very human traits detract from his massive intellectual contribution to the project of human emancipation. Francis Wheen's work is therefore an important and critical contribution to the process of human emancipation, above all the emancipation of the mind. Having read Wheen's biography, we must conclude that Marx was neither a devil nor a saint, but a man sincerely concerned with the condition and fate of humanity, and still worth studying.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable, insightful, 22 Jan 2008
By 
J. Syner "Skain" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Karl Marx (Paperback)
I previously knew nothing about Karl Marx except that he wrote the communist manifesto.

My preconceptions of the man, were fairly ignorant.
I always saw him as an extreamist who inspired terrible dictatorships.

I am now aware these regimes took Karl Marx's work out context.

Im in my 20's and trying to find out where i stand politically.

A communist, i am not. Right Wing, definately not.

A socialist within a capitalist society .. maybe

I have never given much thought to politics before, its all new food for thought.
This book was a pleasure to read, and it has been a great introduction to Karl Marx.
Its inspired me to now read Das Kapital also by francis Wheen, and then i will give the communist manifesto a go.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - scholarly and witty biography of a fascinating historical figure., 9 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Karl Marx (Kindle Edition)
Magnificent, absorbing page-turner with a perfect balance of irreverence, wit, affection and respect for the Great Man. One of the most bizarre historical lives brought to vibrant life.
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Karl Marx by Francis Wheen (Paperback - 7 May 2010)
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