The 'Scandal' of Marxism and Other Writings on Politics

Roland Barthes, trans. from the French by Chris Turner. Seagull (Univ. of Chicago, dist.), $21 (112p) ISBN 978-0-85742-239-2
The most striking quality in this volume of newly translated essays by Barthes (1915–1980), written between 1950 and 1977, is their freshness. The scope of the topics covered is also remarkable: "Do Revolutions Follow Laws?," "On Left Criticism," "Master and Slaves," and "Utopia," to name a few. A humane and consistent vision threads through them: Barthes asserts firmly that literature matters ("Let us dare to ask everything of a work of art: not just ideas and morality, but also language"), those in power lie, and killing for the sake of a doctrine is wrong. He writes with a clarity and brevity that strike to the heart of issues still relevant decades after his death: race, propaganda, abuse of power. While he stumbles in his essay on China, the rest of the essays are direct and intelligent, written with a passion too often absent from contemporary prose. The essays' brevity—few run more than two pages—offers an added boon. This collection is strongly recommended: it more than repays the reader's time and effort. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/27/2015
Release date: 09/01/2015
Genre: Religion
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