good novels with good political or working class content

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flaneur's picture
flaneur
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Jun 11 2009 22:51

Think this deserves a bump, since I've noted down several books from this list and Strumpet City blew my mind. Thanks for all the suggestions.

My suggestions are two of my favourites. The Difference Engine created the genre of steampunk, set in a technocratic Britain with the likes of Darwin, Byron and Babbage being in government, delivering much superior technology than the Victorian age allowed. The world as a result, is dramatically different, with Ireland never having the famine (and thus no bid for independence) and America never broken. Marx is involved with the declaration of the Manhattan Commune, Engels is a fledging capitalist in Manchester interested by New York, The Great Stink causes a communist uprising, and the chilling end shows the folly of science over humanity.

My other favourite is also an alternate history book, Fire on the Mountain. This is a book that assumes John Brown, the abolitionist, succeeded with the revolt at Harper's Ferry in 1859. The story is retold from the present (the 50's, with Elvis featuring as a mechanic) through letters and first hand accounts from a relative of the main characters that served with Brown's group. The insurgency eventually inspires a countrywide revolt, and General Lee's army is defeated. Socialists come over to fight, and communist revolutions occur (and succeed) worldwide. The relative later goes to Ireland and fights with James Connolly. The current day world has America split into two countries, an Nova Africa one, and a United Socialist States of America one. There's little mention of the governance structure, but class struggle looks eliminated.

1ngram
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Jun 20 2009 15:15

Just found this thread. I'm surprised that though Serge is mentioned (and his character reference given) no one seems to have mentioned his greatest novel ny far. While his first trilogy ending with "Conquered City" are good his masterpiece is surely "The Case of Comrade Tulayev" the fourth book in his series. Its a masterly fictionalisation of the purges and how they affected the various character types in the political maelstrom of Stalinist Russia. The next in the series isn't a patch on this and the last in the series was only published last year and reads more like an Alan Furst book.

BTW Alan Furst books are worth a look too especially "Midnight in the Century" and "Dark Star".

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Jun 28 2009 13:17

Sid Chaplin: The Watcher And The Watched
working class novel set in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the sixties- watching a working class community get ripped apart from the point of view of a young engineer. It includes an ex-boxer interesting anarchist character organizing in the community.
I like AJ Cronin's The Stars Look Down- came to mind thinking about Geordie things with Chaplin. It is a right old potboiler of evil capitalists and struggling miners and the great 14-18 slaughter. I shed a tear when the boy never got to play for the Mags!

Wellclose Square
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Jun 28 2009 15:45

Tart wrote:

Quote:
I like AJ Cronin's The Stars Look Down- came to mind thinking about Geordie things with Chaplin. It is a right old potboiler of evil capitalists and struggling miners and the great 14-18 slaughter. I shed a tear when the boy never got to play for the Mags!

This got made into a film in 1940 with Michael Redgrave, see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031976/ . I've got a vague memory there was an ITV dramatisation of this in the mid-70s, which was what I was looking for when I found that other link.

Wellclose Square
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Jun 28 2009 16:26

I've got a vague memory there was an ITV dramatisation of this in the mid-70s, which was what I was looking for when I found that other link.

Found it!

[url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stars_Look_Down_(1974)[/url]

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Jun 30 2009 19:47

Seamus O'Mulgreavey :"The Wake Of John F Kennedy and other Uncle Francie stories" ISBN 90-801519-1-2
Absolutely mental stories about a working class family in Belfast. Hard to get hold of I would imagine.
Seamus also wrote "Bonkie" whilst in Portloaise. It has bits that are obviously a first novel and some that are obviously written by a man not getting sex but it is a great laugh. Seamus is a natural anarchist- (but with strong capitalist tendencies).
He was once dubbed King of Ireland by Spike Milligan and has been known to write plays and screenplays.
One of his screenplays was stolen from him and made into the film "The Butcher Boy": Seamus is trying to get the rights back in the courts but his chances as a working class writer taking on big dicks in the film industry must be slim.

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Dec 18 2012 08:25

This thread is a goldmine. Remember the first time I heard of James Kelman was here; I'd be terribly glad to get some pointers towards similar writers.

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Dec 18 2012 09:23
Tart wrote:
Sid Chaplin: The Watcher And The Watched
working class novel set in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the sixties- watching a working class community get ripped apart from the point of view of a young engineer. It includes an ex-boxer interesting anarchist character organizing in the community.
I like AJ Cronin's The Stars Look Down- came to mind thinking about Geordie things with Chaplin. It is a right old potboiler of evil capitalists and struggling miners and the great 14-18 slaughter. I shed a tear when the boy never got to play for the Mags!

I 'found' this on my travels and it makes me laugh like a loon. What a poor miserable bastard Tiger is.

Altemark, Swing Hammer Swing about a 60s radical/slacker in the famous Gorbals, Glasgow. Torrington, dead now, was chums with Kelman and helped him get the book published.

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Dec 18 2012 16:34

I just read In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck. It's fantastic. It's about a strike among agricultural workers that communist party organizers played a role in. Really gripping.

I echo the recommendation of Fire on the Mountain. That's a great, great book.

I may have mentioned this already, I can't remember, also: Manituana, by Wu Ming. It's a really well-research historical fiction book about the Iroquois, who sided with the British during the American War of Independence.

Also, Aleksandar Hemon's stuff is good. He writes about the civil war in the former Yugoslavia and about life for immigrants in the US (and about being really into music).

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Dec 18 2012 17:55

Lots of good stuff listed here – loads I haven’t read yet.

I would like to add two classics: Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s trilogy ‘A Scots Quair’ (Sunset Song, the best, 1932; Cloud Howe, 1933; Grey Granite, 1934), a good story but not an easy read as there is a lot of ‘Scots’; Walter Greenwood’s ‘Love on the dole’ (1933) – the struggle to survive/resist in a northern English town between the world wars.

I usually read novels as escapism and after reading Orwell tended to read anything I could find on 1930s/1940s Spain. These are the most memorable:

‘Hollow Victory’ (1962) by Georges Conchon - set in 1939, a Stalinist hides out with his right-wing family as the victorious fascists hunt the Reds. Creepy.
‘The Armed Rehearsal’ (1964) by Peter Elstob (ex I.B.) - good story with a vivid description of the battle of Jarama.
‘Hermanos!’ (1969) by William Herrick (ex I.B.). A so-so story with a great description of the arrival in Madrid of the first detachment of the I.B. (the German battalion).
‘Winter in Madrid’ (2006) by C.J. Sansom. A good spy story set in Spain 1940, which is well written with liberal politics. Main story line about trying to find an I.B. friend ‘lost’ in one of Franco’s secret prison camps.

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Dec 20 2012 20:43
fnbrill wrote:
Crime novels by Dashell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Paco Ignacio Taibo. There's a couple of Taibo's books which have anarchist/revolutionary characters - he's obviously sympethetic. Chandler was very political, but very cynical about the ruling class and boy could he turn a phrase.

I would add to this the crime/mystery novels of Ross Macdonald and John D. MacDonald. Ross had a psychological depth beyond Hammett and Chandler, and John D. had an ecological turn to his writing.

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Apr 21 2013 17:57

The best three heavily class struggle themed books I read, are, Iron Heel, Spartacus by Howard Fast and The Rape of the Fair Country by Alexander Cordell.

It seems CP literature and their fellow travellers has fallen foul even of this thread. Nobody mentioned Howard Fast, or Alexander Cordell. One person mentioned AJ Cronin...Really poor show.

There is a whole lot of other stuff I need to read and get back on to see if it's worth mentioning.

Spiorad Saor
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Apr 22 2013 01:28

Off the top of my head The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is one book that comes to mind which has most likely already been mentioned. Some Irvine Welsh books mainly Trainspotting, glue and SkagBoys give a good account of Thatcher era Britain and the struggles of the working class. They also show everyones way of coping with the drudgery of everyday life under a decaying Capitalist system. Escape through Alcohol, Heroin, Amphetamines and violence are all ways of dealing with boredom, stress and the overall feeling of alienation one get's thanks to Capitalism. Of course Orwell goes without saying. I have just got around to reading Homage to Catalonia and so far i love it.

I'm sure i have other novels here that have political content but i can not think of them off the top of my head right now.

wojtek
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Apr 22 2013 13:55

.

infektfm
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Jul 8 2015 22:46

The Dispossessed by Ursula K Leguin

Haust
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Nov 3 2015 00:27

esthethics of resistance by peter weiss. simply one of the best books i've read.

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Nov 3 2015 19:40

Nate writes:

Quote:
I just read In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck. It's fantastic. It's about a strike among agricultural workers that communist party organizers played a role in. Really gripping.

I would second that opinion.

David in Atlanta
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Dec 25 2015 14:36
Quote:
BTW Alan Furst books are worth a look too especially "Midnight in the Century" and "Dark Star".

Midnight in the Century is Serge, not Furst. If you view his novels as consecutive, which does make sense, it would be number five after The Case of Comrade Tulayev. Furst wrote Midnight in Europe.

Sleeper
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Dec 25 2015 17:40

Read anything by Kim Stanley Robinson. His Mars Trilogy is probably his best known works - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_trilogy

I prefer his Three Californias or Orange County Trilogy: The Wild Shore, The Gold Coast and Pacific Edge - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Californias_Trilogy