Marx is not in the least bit a sympathetic human being - not at least in my reading of Wheen's detailed biography, but one can't help but feel the pain of his life, particularly the children he lost 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 Karl Marx : A Life. Francis Wheen.
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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.
Francis Wheen is a distinguished author and journalist who was voted Columnist of the Year in February 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. Karl Marx. Francis Wheen. The Little Wild Boar.
T he late Huw Wheldon of the BBC once described to me a series, made in the early days of radio, about celebrated exiles who had lived in London. Asked if he could remember a certain Karl Marx, the wheezing old pensioner at first came up empty. But when primed with different prompts about the once-diligent attendee monopolizing the same seat number, always there between opening and closing time, heavily bearded, suffering from carbuncles, tending to lunch in the Museum Tavern , very much interested in works on political economy , he let the fount of memory be unsealed. Marx, yes, to be sure. Until comparatively recently, with the slight exception perhaps of certain pockets within the academy, it was a general tendency among educated people as well, even those of radical temper, to put their old volumes of Marx up on the shelf reserved for the phlogiston theory.
The Revenge of Karl Marx
They say, and it does seem to be true, that we get the prime ministers and presidents we deserve. Now, it looks as if each generation is going to get the Karl Marx it deserves. The biographical obsession, personality-bound cod analysis, has got everywhere. We prefer to see the portrait of the man, rather than think about his thoughts.
A loveable old rogue
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Wheen was born into an army family  and educated at two independent schools: Copthorne Preparatory School near Crawley , West Sussex, and Harrow School in north west London. Running away from Harrow at 16 "to join the alternative society," Wheen had early periods as a "dogsbody" at The Guardian and the New Statesman and attended Royal Holloway College, University of London , after a period at a crammer. Wheen is the author of several books, including a biography of Karl Marx  which won the Deutscher Memorial Prize in ,  and has been translated into twenty languages. Wheen had a column in The Guardian for several years. He writes for Private Eye and is currently the magazine's deputy editor.