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A Human Being

Jenny Diski: Karl Marx

25 November 1999
Karl Marx 
by Francis Wheen.
Fourth Estate, 441 pp., £20, October 1999, 1 85702 637 3
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Adventures in Marxism 
by Marshall Berman.
Verso, 160 pp., £17, September 1999, 9781859847343
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... mind, while, if we were there before, we can comfort ourselves with the notion that our Marx – naturally – was the real Karl. Right now, columnist, game-show pundit and biographer of Tom Driberg, FrancisWheen is here to tell us that all the previous practitioners and theoreticians of Marx’s work – both the governments and the academics (in economics, history, geography, sociology, literature ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Anna Karenina, New Puritans, Books on Cooking the Books

22 February 2001
... blasphemous’ and ‘prodigiously inane’. And the most critically popular recent example of this sort of thing that I can think of is Posy Simmonds’s Gemma Bovery – her impartial colleague FrancisWheen suggested it should have won the Booker Prize. All of which would seem to suggest that it’s fine to do it as long as you do it with some other country’s literature. The infiltration of ex ...

Reader, he married her

Christopher Hitchens

10 May 1990
Tom Driberg: His Life and Indiscretions 
by Francis Wheen.
Chatto, 452 pp., £18, May 1990, 0 7011 3143 8
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... free blow-jobs to the masses. How many modern Members of Parliament can claim as much? In this witty and combative portrait with background (to annex Tom’s own title for his profile of Guy Burgess) FrancisWheen doesn’t consider the social-democratic aspect of oral and homosexual promiscuity as much as he does the allegedly crypto-Communist angle that has lately been superimposed upon it. A whole ...

Town Planner?

Miles Taylor: Engels

17 December 2009
The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels 
by Tristram Hunt.
Allen Lane, 442 pp., £25, May 2009, 978 0 7139 9852 8
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The Condition of the Working Class in England 
by Friedrich Engels.
Penguin, 307 pp., £10.99, May 2009, 978 0 14 119110 2
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... our troubled times. Engels, however, has remained on the shelf. Is the moment ripe for a reunion? Tristram Hunt clearly thinks so. He has restored colour, lights and action to Engels’s life much as FrancisWheen did in his makeover of Marx ten years ago. The Frock-Coated Communist is highly readable and mostly reliable. Engels’s previous biographers – principally Gustav Mayer (who knew his ...

Sinking Giggling into the Sea

Jonathan Coe: Giggling along with Boris

18 July 2013
The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson 
edited by Harry Mount.
Bloomsbury, 149 pp., £9.99, June 2013, 978 1 4081 8352 6
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... he recently accepted from the establishment he has worked so hard to undermine. Meanwhile, on Have I Got News for You and The News Quiz respectively, Ian Hislop (Ardingly, Magdalen) and old Harrovian FrancisWheen tirelessly carry on the work that the Beyond the Fringe team started more than half a century ago.When Have I Got News for You moved to BBC One more than a decade ago it began to lose some of ...

History’s Postman

Tom Nairn: The Jewishness of Karl Marx

26 January 2006
Karl Marx ou l’esprit du monde 
by Jacques Attali.
Fayard, 549 pp., €23, May 2005, 2 213 62491 7
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... winner, ahead of Hume, Plato, Karl Popper and others. Asked to comment, Eric Hobsbawm said he thought that the fall of Soviet Communism had at last allowed people to disentangle Marxism from Moscow. FrancisWheen, the author of a recent biography of Marx, made a similar point. The man had finally emerged from under the political debris, and barely resembled the quasi-religious icon and prophetic ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison

5 December 1985
No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... be found in Frances Molloy’s novel No Mate for the Magpie, which is written in dialect and follows its heroine from babyhood through convent to civil rights marches. The unfamiliar words are few (wheen, wain, sheoghe – the last, ‘changeling’, beautifully applied to the narrator’s father on his release from a long jail sentence), so that by the end the phonetic oddities are scarcely ...

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