Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
A balanced, compact and very readable account of one of most influential thinkers of his era
on 21 November 2015
Francis Wheen’s aim with this book was to write a general book about Karl Marx for the intelligent reader. Francis Wheen gives a clear explanation of all of Marx’s works but spends as much time on the man himself, his contemporaries and his relationships.
I came away from this entertaining, interesting book with a good feel for his life and times: the boils on his bum, the numerous creditors, his ingrained procrastination, numerous fallings out with socialist rivals, his wife, his children etc. across his turbulent, chaotic but compelling life.
Born in the Rhineland city of Trier, Marx couldn’t wait to escape this tedious backwater, to the extent that he didn’t even return to attend his father’s funeral. Thus started a roving life until, after the unsuccessful European revolutions of 1848, and having been made unwelcome in Germany and Belgium, he pitched up in London, the last refuge of the rootless revolutionary where he lived in Dickensian poverty with bailiffs at his door
Helpfully, his friend Engels, a great cotton Lord and kind of secret agent behind enemy lines, sent him money to keep him afloat for years. It was only Marx's desire to keep up bourgeoise appearances that meant he was permanent spending more than he could afford including, hilariously, for a period, a preening, libidinous and incompetent private secretary, and only because he thought it appropriate for a man of his position to have one.
The book is clear about Marx’s many unattractive traits, however it also paints a delightful portrait of a loving, involved father and husband, and a passionate philosopher. It's a balanced, compact and very readable account of one of most influential thinkers of his era.