Book Talk: Mary Gabriel on love, capital & Karl Marx's family

Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:15am EDT
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By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters) - Veteran journalist and former Reuters editor Mary Gabriel spent eight years poring over the personal lives of Karl Marx and his aristocratic wife Jenny.

The result is a revealing portrait of Marx as a husband, father and human being inside a thorough account of the poverty, persecution and death which haunted the family of a man whose political theories would change the world.

Gabriel, whose book has been nominated for a National Book Award in the United States, spoke to Reuters about her work: "Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution."

Q: Wasn't Marx a crowded field for a writer?

A: There are libraries of books on Marx and books on his theory in every conceivable language, but I was shocked to find that among all those volumes there was not a single book that focused on Marx and his family. Marx's personal life has been a controversial subject from the time of his death in 1883. Immediately after his burial efforts began by his followers to sanitize his story so that this 'socialist god' would not seem human.

I believed there was room for another biography that told the story of Marx and his family, that readers ought to be introduced to Marx as husband, father and friend - for better or worse. Readers will see that this man was not at all the stern patrician he appeared to be in socialist and communist propaganda. I also found that uncovering the private Marx helped me understand his theory. Having done so, I can't imagine reading Marx's works without understanding the circumstances in which they were written and the historical events that were unfolding around him as he did so.

Q: What surprised you most about Marx?

A: I was shocked by how approachable Marx was, and how much, by the end of the project, I enjoyed his company (I "moved in" with the Marxes for about eight years.) There is a silly question people are often asked about political candidates -- "Which one would you most like to have a beer with?" By the end of the book, I would answer Karl Marx! He was funny, brilliant, passionate and completely exasperating, which in a sense only made him more endearing.   Continued...