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It was in this period that a number of philosophers, poets, and artists sought to regain the revolutionary momentum -- and it was their efforts that lay behind the establishment of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The best-known of these thinkers was Karl Marx, self-appointed leader of the socialist movement that led in the next century to the Russian Revolution. But Shlomo Barer, the author of this stupendous study of obsessed agitators, also brings into the picture the political commentator and greatest of German lyric poets, Heinrich Heine; the hitherto obscure Moses Hess, who may rank as the first communist of all; two Russians of aristocratic background who were prepared to throw over all their wealth and privilege to fight for social and economic change, Alexander Herzen and Michael Bakunin; and Ferdinand Lassalle, the young German firebrand who might have outclassed all the others if he had not died young in a ridiculous duel.
Barer explores the childhood, education, and young adulthood of these remarkable men and presents in lively detail their families, their mistresses and wives, their friends, and the way their lives all crisscrossed. He also paints in the political and cultural background so that the Russian csars and French kings are brought to life, not to mention such illustrious personalities as George Sand and her circle, Meyerbeer the opera composer, Turgenev, Balzac, and a host of others.
Barer paints a broad canvas of society in turmoil and of minds at work to set it right. He has produced a book of epic dimensions, a narrative whose continually moving plot holds the reader's attention throughout, and of a magnitude and depth that will make it indispensable to the student of modern history and politics.
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