Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Terrell Carver on The Frock-Coated Communist

From Marx and Philosophy's Review of Books (well worth a look), Terrell Carver has a pretty damning review of Tristram Hunt's 'biography' of Frederick Engels:

The tone – in my blunt and no doubt ‘academic’ judgement – is relentlessly trivial and trivialising, scornful and dismissive, anything-for-a-laugh and hypocritically judgmental...In sum, I did not like this book. And I do not like the genre. Calling it ‘popular biography’ is perhaps too kind. I’m not at all sure that turning lives into trivialising gossip and shock/horror sensation is really biography at all. It is more like the Anekdota of Procopius, his ‘secret histories’ of the Byzantine court – but at least he knew the people involved, had a stake in it all and took the risks. Let us hope that Hunt finds better things to do on TV than bring this book to a wider audience.

Speaking of Hunt now 'finding better things to do on TV', rumour has it that after making 'The Joy of Motoring' the new Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central is now working with Peter Mandleson on a TV programme entitled 'The Joy of Parachuting'. Speaking of Engels, Gareth Jenkins is doing a meeting on his life at Marxism 2010

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At 2:42 pm, Anonymous meltr said...

Thanks so much for this. It encapsulates exactly (and is especially good on the snarky, smart ass tone that pervades the book) why I detested it so much. I had to hold my nose to finish Hunt's work (apparently the genre is "popular" biography) and was left feeling I learned nothing of any value.

At 8:39 pm, Anonymous Grim and Dim said...

There is a more sympathetic, though far from uncritical, assessment by Keith Flett in the latest Revolutionary History which you plugged recently. Might be worth posting that as well to encourage discussion.


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