Cover image for Marx in Soho : a play on history
Marx in Soho : a play on history
Zinn, Howard, 1922-2010.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : South End Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxii, 55 pages ; 18 cm

Format :


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Material Type
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PS3576.I538 M37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Don't you ever wonder: why is it necessary to declare me dead again and again?

The premise of this witty and insightful "play on history" is that Karl Marx has agitated with the authorities of the afterlife for a chance to clear his name. Through a bureaucratic error, though, Marx is sent to Soho in New York, rather than his old stomping ground in London, to make his case.

Zinn introduces us to Marx's wife, Jenny, his children, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, and a host of other characters.

Marx in Soho is a brilliant introduction to Marx's life, his analysis of society, and his passion for radical change. Zinn also shows how relevant Marx's ideas are for today's world.

Historian and activist Howard Zinn is the author of the bestselling A People's History of the United States and numerous other writings. He recently received the Eugene V. Debs and Lannan Foundation awards for his writing and political activism. He is also the author of Emma , a play about Emma Goldman, in the anthology Playbook (South End Press).

Praise for Marx in Soho :

"An imaginative critique of our society's hypocrisies and injustices, and an entertaining, vivid portrait of Karl Marx as a voice of humanitarian justice - which is perhaps the best way to remember him."- Kirkus Reviews

"A cleverly imagined call to reconsider socialist theory... Zinn's point is well made; his passion for history melds with his political vigor to make this a memorable effort and a lucid primer for readers desiring a succinct, dramatized review of Marxism."- Publishers Weekly

"Even in heaven it seems, Karl Marx is a troublemaker. But in the deft and loving hands of activist/author/historian Howard Zinn, the historical figure... is also a father, a husband and a futurist possessing a grand sense of humor."- ForeWord

"A witty delight that will engage both new and old acquaintances of the Marxian corpus.... Even conservatives will find Zinn's [book]... an intelligent and diverting read. Recommended for academic and public libraries alike."- Library Journal

Author Notes

A committed radical historian and activist, Howard Zinn approaches the study of the past from the point of view of those whom he feels have been exploited by the powerful.

Zinn was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1922. After working in local shipyards during his teens, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force, where he saw combat as a bombardier in World War II. He received a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1958 and was a postdoctoral fellow in East Asian studies at Harvard University.

While teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, Zinn joined the civil rights movement and wrote The Southern Mystique (1964) and SNCC: The New Abolitionists (1964). He also became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, writing Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal (1967) and visiting Hanoi to receive the first American prisoners released by the North Vietnamese.

Zinn's best-known and most-praised work, as well as his most controversial, is A People's History of the United States (1980). It explores American history under the thesis that most historians have favored those in power, leaving another story untold. Zinn discusses such topics as Native American views of Columbus and the socialist and anarchist opposition to World War I in examining his theory that historical change is most often due to "mass movements of ordinary people."

Zinn's other books include You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times (1995) and Artists in Times of War (2004). He has also written the plays Emma (1976), Daughter of Venus (1985), and Marx in Soho (1999).

(Bowker Author Biography) Howard Zinn grew up in the immigrant slums of Brooklyn, where he worked in shipyards in his late teens. He saw combat duty as an air force bombardier in World War II, and afterward received his doctorate in history from Columbia University. His first book, "La Guardia in Congress", was an Albert Beveridge Prize winner. In 1956, he moved with his wife and children to Atlanta to become chairman of the history department of Spelman College. He has since written and edited many more books, including A People's History of the United States, SNCC: The New Abolitionist; Disobedience and Democracy; The Politics of History; The Pentagon Papers: Critical Essays; You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times; and The Zinn Reader (Seven Stories Press, 1997).

Zinn is also the author of three plays, Emma, Daughter of Venus, and Marx in Soho. Among the many honors Zinn has received is the 1998 Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction. A professor emeritus of political science at Boston University, he lives with his wife, Roslyn, in the Boston area, near their children and grandchildren.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Author of the controversial People's History of the United States (rev. ed., 1995), Zinn remains, in the post-cold war era, an unabashed Marxist. He deplores the "Stalinist cruelties" of the Soviet system, however, and thinks Marx would have, too. So despite the trumpeted triumph of capitalism, he offers a one-man play about Marx. Observing a tradition of one-person shows, Zinn places Marx in the limbo of a bare stage, dressed in mid-nineteenth-century frock coat, vest, and floppy tie but aware that he speaks to a late-twentieth-century audience. Marx discusses his life and work in a manner combining the best of both a confession and a lecture, balancing the need to tell an interesting story, that of the hardship he and his family endured while he wrote his classic critiques, and the desire to communicate some pure Marxism, unsullied by Lenin and his gang. Avoiding Marx's ponderous passages, Zinn makes the case that Marx on capitalism remains relevant. If he is found unconvincing, his fine little work is still moving. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0896085945Jack Helbig

Publisher's Weekly Review

Taking his inspiration from Karl Marx's stay in London's Soho district after his exile from the Continent, Zinn's (A People's History of the United States) one-man play reads like a first-person memoir narrated by a distinctive voice. Laid out on the page as seamless monologue, it envisions Marx in the Soho district of New York in the present, where his mind reels at the same capitalist injustices that boggled him 150 years ago. The wizened and ailing Marx discourses on the economic state of the modern-day U.S., heatedly decrying the vast disparity between rich and poor and the corrupt, systematic funneling of the wealth that workers earn into the hands of capitalists. Through cascading recollections, we learn of Marx's devoted marriage, his love for his children and his stormy debates with Mikhail Bakunin, a fellow radical whose concept of a revolution of the spleen rather than the intellect makes Marx seem cold by comparison. These nuggets of personal information yield warmth and mettle where the dialectical prose gets heavy-handed. Often, the doctrines espoused threaten to overwhelm Zinn's expressed mission to expose Marx's human side. Zinn is, after all, reissuing Marx's socialist critique to apply to modern America and, along the way, revising Marxist doctrine by imagining the theorist himself rethinking some of his more off-the-mark notions. Most often it is Marx's critical wife, Jenny, and brilliant daughter Eleanor who take him to task when he fumbles. With Zinn's hefty prologue and scholarly but pointed reading list, the text is a cleverly imagined call to reconsider socialist theory as a valid philosophy in these times. Zinn's point is well made; his passion for history melds with his political vigor to make this a memorable effort and a lucid primer for readers desiring a succinct, dramatized review of Marxism. (Mar.) FYI: Actor Matt Damon is coproducing a TV adaptation of A People's History. Zinn recently won a Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Marx's reputation may be in far more robust health academically than practically, but even among campus intellectuals his image has gotten a whipping. With Freud, Marx is one of the two 19th-century men who dominatedÄeven createdÄthe social sciences and critical thinking of this century. With psychoanalysis, Marxism has fallen hard; socialism, history as class struggle, and the idea that pervasive commodification is a bad thing are conceptual victims, both of apparent market prosperity in the West and the moral and fiscal bankruptcy of the governments established under the Communist rubric. Zinn, the eminent Left historian (A People's History of the United States, Borgo, 1994), suddenly "hot" thanks to buzz spread by his young family friend, actor Matt Damon, believes that Marx will have deep relevance in the next century, too. This one-man play, an imagined monolog that Marx delivers after being wrongly returned from death but with a glitch, is a witty delight that will engage both new and old acquaintances of the Marxian corpus. Though its brevity and entertainment-first intent depart radically from the density of Marx's actual written polemics, even conservatives will find Zinn's Marx-for-bright-funseekers an intelligent and diverting read. Recommended for academic and public libraries alike.ÄScott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.