Obituaries

Lessing's legacy

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For a writer as prolific as she was - she wrote more than 50 books - that's not surprising. This unevenness was also, to some significant degree, the product of her political choices over nearly 70 years.

Lessing grew up in the profoundly racist society of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and her early reaction to that was to explore the complexities of inter-racial relationships in her first novel, The Grass is Singing, and then to join the tiny and secretive Communist Party (CP).

Leon Kuhn (1954-2013)

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A life long revolutionary socialist Leon devoted his outstanding artistic skills to furthering the cause of the working class and oppressed people around the world. He he not only drew on the revolutionary photomontage of artists like of George Grozs, Hannah Hoch and John Heartfield, but he also advanced it as printing and copying techniques evolved.

Lou Reed 1942-2013

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The media have been full of praise for Lou Reed now that he is dead, as is the norm for the hypocritical press. He would have hated it. Lou Reed hated the press in general but especially loathed the British press.

He was loudly and openly scornful of celebrity culture and fame. He saw himself as a rebel poet who sang rather than as a pop singer. One of his last public gigs was at Occupy in New York reciting a poem against Wall Street.

Norman Geras 1943-2013

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The author of the seminal and groundbreaking work, Marx and Human Nature, was not without his faults.

Norman Geras died an apologist for imperialism and had spent the last decade and more trying to justify Bush's and Blair's drive to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. That said, it would be a mistake to dismiss all of his work because of where he ended politically. For in the decades before he became a warmonger, Geras made important, if flawed, contributions to Marxism that deserve rereading today.

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

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Paul O'Brien celebrates the life and poetry of Ireland's rebel poet.

Seamus Heaney was born in County Derry in 1939. He was perhaps the finest lyrical poet of his generation and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. He grew up in the deeply divided landscape of Northern Ireland where "the lines of sectarian antagonism and affiliation followed the boundaries of the land". He lived through the demise of the ancient rural world into which he was born, and the emergence of a globalised modern Ireland.

Bernard Behrman (1931-2013)

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Alex Callinicos pays tribute to a lifelong and powerful fighter for justice and socialism.

I vividly remember first meeting Bernard Behrman, who died in August at the age of 81. It was in the mid-1970s. If you were interested in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, London was a fascinating place. It seemed to be full of exiles who had had to flee their country because of the ferocious repression that crushed the great struggles of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Obituary: Iain Banks

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Patrick Ward, who interviewed author Iain Banks for Socialist Review in 2008, looks at his life and work

Iain Banks, who died last month at the age of 59, was a towering figure in both mainstream and science fiction. His 27-book legacy provides a mixture of both genres (occasionally within one book) and is run through with a ribbon of hope for a better world.

Obituary: Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

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The death of Chinua Achebe leads Ayodele Jabbar to recall the legacy of literature he left behind

Chinua Achebe, the great pioneer of African writing, died age 82 on 21 March in Boston. Achebe was born Albert Chinualumogu to Christian convert parents in the traditional Igbo village of Ogidi in eastern Nigeria. He always believed this environment fostered his talent for storytelling - as a Christian living among non-Christian relatives and imbibed with traditional Igbo stories from a young age.

Obituary: Oscar Niemeyer

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Architect (1907-2012)

"What is it you guys want?" an FBI interrogator once asked the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, in exile from a US-backed military coup in his home country. "To change society," he replied. "Now that's going to be difficult", was their retort. Niemeyer, who died this month at the age of 104, was one of the last architects who did want to change society, and it did indeed prove to be very difficult.

Obituary: Hans Werner Henze (1928 - 2012)

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It is not often that a classical music concert triggers a riot and ends with the theatre being invaded by riot police.

But that's what happened on the opening night of Henze's oratorio Das Floss der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) in Hamburg on 9 December 1968. The event, which he was at, confirmed Henze's dim view of his country and cemented his political radicalisation. His recent death at the age of 86 is a sad loss.

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