karl marx in paris -- 5/22/18

Today's selection -- from A World to Win by Sven-Eric Liedman. Starting in 1843, Karl Marx spent 15 months in the rich cultural ferment that was Paris. His book, Das Kapital, would be published in 1867 and start the most intense global ideological struggle of the Industrial Age--and beyond:

"Marx came to Paris in late October 1843. Under pressure from the Prussians, French authorities deported him in early February 1845. His stay thus lasted barely fifteen months. But they were fifteen months that meant a revolution in his life.

"The 1830s and 1840s were exceptionally creative decades. Paris was at the focal point for everything new. Social projects blos­somed, at least in ideas and dreams. Most of [Henri de] Saint-Simon's many followers were in Paris, Charles Fourier's visions of the future drew people to the city, and it was here that Etienne Caber's plans for a new kingdom of happiness enjoyed success. Pierre Leroux, who helped redefine socialism, was in Paris. And another term, 'communism', was also turning up more and more frequently.' ...

"Paris was not just a melting pot in the field of ideologies. Culture in its narrower meaning was in a vital phase. Its literature was rich and lively. Honore de Balzac was constructing the substan­tial world of his novels, a singular panorama of contemporary France. Aurore Dudevant, alias George Sand, was also enjoying great success as an author. Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve became the first literary critic in the modern sense.

Franz Liszt Fantasizing at the Piano. The imagined gathering shows seated Alfred de Musset or Alexandre Dumas, père, George Sand, Franz Liszt, Marie d'Agoult; standing Hector Berlioz or Victor Hugo, Niccolò Paganini, Gioachino Rossini; a bust of Beethoven on the Graf grand piano, a portrait of Byron on the wall, a statue of Joan of Arc on the far left.

"Musical life was equally significant. Paris was the city of Hector Berlioz, and the great composers and musicians of the time stayed there for shorter or longer periods: Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn, Hector Berlioz, and many others. The scope among painters was no smaller: everything from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres's paintings of beautiful, well-dressed society ladies to Honore Daumier's incomparably nasty caricatures of the men of power was to be found here.

"On the other hand, France was politically stagnant after the July Revolution of 1830. The king, Louis Philippe, was satisfied with a system in which money reigned supreme. His understand­ing was shared by the leading politician, Francois Guizot, whose most famous utterance to the French has already been quoted: 'Get rich! Get rich!' But social rifts and dissatisfaction were increasing.

"It was this remarkable environment which greeted Marx and his wife Jenny. Jenny was already pregnant, and on 1 May 1844, their daughter Jenny -- who would come to be called Jennychen -- was born.

"Domestic happiness did not prevent the young husband and father from making himself at home in the simmering new envi­ronment. He was not the only German who had taken refuge in Paris. There was an entire German colony that included everyone from poets to craftsmen. In Paris, they could live a freer, richer life than they could in their German homelands.

"One of them was the great author Heinrich Heine. Marx came to know him in December 1843, and he, Jenny, and Heine began a deep friendship. Through Heine, Marx began to frequent one of the real focal points of Parisian life: the salon of Marie d' Agoult, where many musicians, artists, and authors met."

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Sven-Eric Liedman


A World to Win: The Life and Works of Karl Marx




Copyright Albert Bonniers Förlag 2015


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