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Karl Marx

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  654 ratings  ·  47 reviews
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 rediscov ...more
Paperback, 431 pages
Published 1999 by Fourth Estate (first published January 1st 1989)
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Community Reviews

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Buck
It’s strange but arguably true: millions of people died in Siberia because a philosopher in London had carbuncles on his ass. Chaos theory now makes a little more sense to me.

In a famous riff on Hegel, Marx once said that history repeats itself, "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Marx’s own biography suggests a different sequence. His life was a grubby, shambolic farce that somehow gave birth to a world-historic tragedy. Francis Wheen, the author of this generally excellent b
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Jan-Maat
This boils and all biography gives a vivid picture of Marx suffering from boils, smoking cheap cigars (apparently he fell in love with a shop with particularly cheap cigars whose advertising said 'the more you smoke, the more you save'), revealing the man with bad handwriting (which prevents him from getting a job as a clerk with a railway company), who suffered from more boils, cadging money off Engels and engaging in bitter correspondence wars with lesser left-wing thinkers.

However I didn't g
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Gabriel Fugazi
Francis Wheen does for Marx what Safranski did for Schopenhauer. The wild years of philosophy are not over in this book. It's actually brilliant, especially considering the tons of bullshit that have been said and written about Marx in recent years. Sometimes you find yourself missing the good old hagiography. Wheen on the other hand is not in the sanctifying business. His Marx is neither a saint, nor a devil, but a genuine crazy-cat bohemian philosopher.
Subvert
I finished reading this book in less than two weeks, which is quite fast considering I only read while I'm in the skytrain. But with this book I found myself reading and walking through the crowded Bangkok streets at the same time, occasionally pushing over some Thai people.

A flawed genius that wrote one of the most important and influential books in human history. Marx here comes by as a sectarian asshole alienating almost all his comrades all the time, as being mostly dirt poor, but also as be
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Lolita Lark
We always heard that Marx was a humorless drudge, the equivalent of a computer geek, slaving away in the British Museum Reading Room. Nonsense. He was a merry one, or at least as merry as one could be --- having been born in dreary Trier, Germany.
He was a dynamite speaker, especially when there was a brouhaha amongst his fellow rabble-rousers, as there usually was. He could round up the troops, get anything he wanted passed when he was running, say, the International Working Men's Association.

An
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Alan Hughes
Aug 07, 2012 Alan Hughes rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alan by: Karl Phillips
Amazon.com 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

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Bob
Unlike Shelley, whom many admire greatly as an artist without condoning his morals, Marx tends to attract furious criticism of almost every aspect of his life (he was nice to his grandchildren, it would seem).
Paul Johnson's chapter on Marx relies heavily on Robert Payne's 1968 biography which I haven't located but take to be quite critical. Wheen's 1999 entry intends to walk an even-handed middle ground between "hagiography" (his word) and utter scorn, which it does.
Nonetheless, at times Wheen s
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Meirav Rath
Jul 04, 2008 Meirav Rath rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history lovers, anyone who claims to be a Marxist, socialist, communist or even an anarchist,
Wheen's wonderfully written book illustraits, with colors as vivis as possible, the life and works of Karl Marx, warts and all; from blood-thirsty arguments with opponents, to medical details of the various many ailments Marx suffered from to the horrificly true and not-so-nice predictions of Europe's political future including the world wars and what brought them about.
Karl Marx is an educating idol for anyone who wants to think on their own, to conclude only what their mind understand by const
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Paul
Francis Wheen provide me with a greater understanding of the philosopher who has been a guiding force in my life. To paraphrase Marx, the fertlizer of revolutions is not political consciousness but class consciousness.

I have written previously in a different forum, "Much like Charles Darwin, who discovered immutable truths regarding of the origins and evolution of life, Karl Marx was a pioneering scientist. He guided humanity through the reasons capitalism was born, why it would thrive and domi
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Ronald
Marx was a tragic character. He never held a job, as most people define 'job,' but he abhorred social inequity and thought he had the 'final solution.'
His ideas were not widely accepted during his lifetime, but were eventually co-opted at devastating human cost by a succession of fanatical totalitarian state actors.

One thing that he did get right, and which has been widely misrepresented by religionists who thrive on the golden goose of human gullibility, is expressed in the following quotation
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Devin Wallace
Although the man has been both revered and reviled, few people will doubt the effect the ideas of Karl Marx have had on the world. Francis Wheen, a columnist for the English newspaper The Guardian, tells the life story of one of the most famous thinkers of all time. Yet unlike others, who either ignore flaws or distort them to high heaven, Wheen allows us to see Marx as a real person: flaws included. The story is funny; Marx wasn't one to mince words, and they were (luckily) recorded in full, vu ...more
Ron
An excellent biography of Marx. Focuses on his personal trials and tribulations. There's politics too.

No matter what your views are on Marx this is an entertaining read about a fascinating man and an extraordinary life.


Cassandra Kay Silva
I think what readers will really enjoy with this one is the authors ability to keep it all in perspective. You can tell the author has no agenda, he doesn't push any "ideal" onto you he just tells you what happened and leaves the agenda pushing to the rest of us. I really liked that and thought he came at the character of Karl Marx from a number of different angles. He let you see what Marx may have looked like to his wife Jenny, to his friend Engels and to a whole host of other characters, that ...more
DoctorM
Not a bad introductory biography of Marx, and well-written enough, though it lacks real political depth, and cares more for Marx's family life and friendships than for the world in which he thought and wrote--- a biography that's a "life" without "times". As tragic and impoverished as the lives of Karl and his family were, Wheen misses the fact that Marx's life is in so many ways something that happened between the covers of the notebooks where he interminably researched, wrote, and revised his ...more
Deanna
Karl Marx's life is a fascinating read. Talk about messed up! I would be interested to read a biography of his wife Jenny.

What amazes me is how someone can have a classical education and use that knowledge to twist it for evil.

This book focuses extensively on his writings and and publishing's. It was a little boring at times which is why I gave it a 3.

I think everyone needs to read something to do with Karl Marx in their life to realize how much our world is impacted by him today. He must be up
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Laura Walin
Takakansi lupasi, että tämä kirja kertoo Marxin henkilökohtaisesta elämästä. Siihen nähden kirja oli pettymys, koska melko paljon siinä maalailtiin myös Marxin yhteiskunnallis-poliittisen elämän suuntaviivoja ja motiiveja. Kenties suurmiehen elämä kietoutui niin paljon ajatusten ja (työ)elämän ympärislle, että henkilökohtainen elämä oli luontevinta esittää niiden välipuheina ja alaviitteinä? Teos olisi mielestäni parantunut hieman selkeämmällä jaottelulla. Nyt lukija joutui pinnistelemään pysyäk ...more
Nuno Martins
Biografia de Karl Marx que aborda o lado mais humano dele do que o lado filósofo/socialista.
Um livro muito interessante, fácil de se ler e que dismitifica o que muito se pensa acerca dele. Marx nunca foi um "furioso revolucionário que comia crianças ao pequeno-almoço" mas sim um grande pensador, pai de família e até mesmo burguês com gostos requintados, mas que nos deixou um enorme legado que infelizmente foi muito mal utilizado e compreendido, criando com isso uma imagem muito "sinistra" de Kar
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L.R. David
I'm not usually a fan of biographies, but this was a joy to read. It gave me a really good insight into one of the greatest thinkers in history, and outlined his thoughts and work as well as his chaotic personal life. Wheen is an excellent writer, witty, warm and funny, and this certainly helped. His obvious admiration for Marx ran through the book and his ten occasionally became defensive, such as the passages about Bakunin. Overall though, a really enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
Una Dimitrijevic
Things you didn't know about Karl Marx : he could never hold down a real job, he was utterly ego-centric and oblivious to the plights of his poor wife and children, he lived off donations from his faithful friend Engels for most of his life, and he never considered himself a Marxist... All this and more in this engaging book which is perfect for those, like me, who want to find out more about Marx but are swiftly put to sleep by economic theory. An enjoyable read.
Aidan Halligan
Wheen's biography of Marx focuses on his personal life, struggles with poor health and poverty and his relationship with his family and Engels. Although Marx's role in the first International and tensions with other anarchist/socialist thinkers of the day (especially Bakunin) are dealt with in depth the primary strength of this biography is the manner in which it deftly - and often humorously - humanises this towering historical figure.
Tara
My opinion is that the bar for writing, in terms of style and talent, is much lower in biography and other nonfiction genres than in fiction. So with that in mind, this was a pretty interesting look into Marx's life. Seemed mostly objective. The day I find a bio written as beautifully as a novel, I'll let you know. This isn't, but it was a good intro for me, because I knew very little about the guy.
Titus Hjelm
A very well written, entertaining book. I wouldn't read this for my economics, history, or sociology class but it's an interesting perspective that focuses on Marx the man more than his work. To his merit, unlike some other popular biograpers, Wheen doesn't try to explain why Marx wrote what he did based on his life history--an attempt that usually ends up being psychoanalytical bs. Recommended!
Andrew
Oct 23, 2008 Andrew added it
An engaging biography - we have such loaded associations with Marx that it is fun to discover the Karl Marx that sat around day after day in the British library researching cotton prices and writing Capital. Or the Marx who sat around with his family quoting Shakespeare to each other. But don't expect to get from this book any serious discussion of Marx's thinking on economics and society.
David Koblos
Reading Marx's biography for a high-school assignment, I was less than enthusiastic at first. This book, however changed my attitude quite quickly. Instead of the endless theorizing about his ideas, I got a realistic sounding big-picture of his life, his personality, along with the many flaws of his character, written in a way I found not only informative, but entertaining.
Eli
This biography is focused on Karl Marx the man and his doings in life. Francis Wheen does not dwell too much on Marx's philosophy.[return][return]Marx's disordered life, his uncaring (and sometimes downright stupid) attitude to money, the constant illnesses and the domineering personality are all usually unknown aspects of the great man that shed light on his personality.
Randy O
Dec 30, 2007 Randy O rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves biographies
Shelves: biographies
Francis Wheen tells a good story and really understands Marx's ideas. You don't have to be a philosopher to enjoy this book, though. It tells of the human side of Marx, his rumored affair with the nanny, his strong bond with his kids, his fondness for Shakespeare, and his impatience with most people he met. (Marx was a jerk, but a memorable one.)
Kevin p.
I thought this was a very thorough, very well written, and even sometimes comical biography of Karl Marx. I'm not a Marxist (that I know of), but if I was I think I'd campaign for a special 'six star' category on GoodReads.
Lyndon
Entertaining and illuminating. Marx has never seemed more apposite than through Wheen's generous account of a man who cared deeply for human freedom from the chains of economic oppression and political degradation.
Thorsten
really enjoyed this! he comes across as a total cunt for the first half of the book, but the older he gets, the more i totally fell in love with him! well worth a read.
Ken Parsell
Very well written, thoughtful and analytical, Francis Wheen's biography of Karl Marx provides an uncommonly well-balanced perspective of an uncommonly influential man.
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Francis James Baird Wheen (born 22 January 1957) is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster.

Wheen was educated at Copthorne Prep School, Harrow School and Royal Holloway College, University of London. At Harrow he was a contemporary of Mark Thatcher who has been a recurring subject of his journalism.[citation needed] He is a member of the 'soap' side of the Wheen family, whose family business
...more
More about Francis Wheen...
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