chapter  5
17 Pages

PERMUTATIONS

Looking with a friend at a reproduction of a curious painting of Marx and Engels having breakfast (with newspapers strewn around on the small table beside the coffee pot and Marx’s pocket watch lying at one side) I pointed out to him how ‘Latin American’ Marx’s complexion looked in this picture. My friend, as always very well acquainted with Marx’s biography, commented that Marx’s daughters used to call him ‘the Moor’. I must have followed this observation with a comment about another topic connected with Marx, namely the so-called suicide of Eleanor Marx. The thought of Eleanor’s suicide has always caused me grief, not least because of the irony involved. Eleanor was an intelligent, well-educated young woman, knowledgeable of her father’s main criticism to modes of productions and the mechanisms of alienation produced in people’s lives through them, but yet, she needed to succumb to a woman’s loving fate in patriarchy. That is, Eleanor succumbed to a cycle of love and betrayal, and finally was induced by her false lover to commit suicide by a pact that only she respected. Her lover, meanwhile, was never prosecuted for handing her poison and continued his life with his wife. My friend’s only comment on this story was that ‘they were people like you and me, with their passions and contradictions’: just the same.