Over at the Rain Taxi Review of Books, Vladislav Davidzon has written an excellent review of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, providing a valuable historical overview and evaluation of her frequently overlooked importance—in the Anglo-American world, at least—to the political struggles and development of socialist thought in the early 20th century. Davidzon's review delves both into her extraordinary life as well as into the world-changing historical events that influenced it and which are mirrored afresh through her correspondence and most personal insights. He writes,
Robert Turnbull reviews The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg for the Times Literary Supplement, discussing the book's resonances with contemporary issues:
[The letters] reveal the struggle that Luxemburg undertook to rise to the top of European political life, and the effects of her efforts on her physical and mental health, in an era when women, especially Jewish women, were not expected to play a part in public life ... Luxemburg's correspondence reveals an extraordinary range and breadth of concerns and interests, from her exchanges with numerous European socialist leaders, including Lenin, Leo Jogiches, Clara Zetkin and others, to sharp disputes with her colleagues ... There are contemporary resonances, too. For example, we find Luxemburg writing to Karl Kautsky in 1906 that "the Achilles heel of the movement in St. Petersburg, as it is with us in Poland, the colossal unemployment which is spreading like a terrible plague."
In his review for PopMatters, Rick Dakan compares the experience of reading The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg to that of walking across Hans Haacke's "monument" to Luxemburg in Berlin's Rosa Luxemburg platz—the book acts as a "similar kind of memorial, a kind of sliver of one woman's life bound together in one place."
Writing on The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg for the Jewish Daily Forward, Joel Schalit notes a certain agelessness to the writing of Rosa Luxemburg:
Not just for her fellow anti-capitalists struggling to effect a proletarian revolution, but also for women striving for equality, Luxemburg's writing has a particularly contemporary quality to it, which helps disguise its actual age. Obsessed by the idea of agency, Luxemburg's theory of spontaneity predates the fierce debates about the decline of the subject in postmodern and leftist critical theories that have been standard fare since Michel Foucault.
Particularly hostile to the notion of bureaucracy, critical of the failings of "revisionist" (read Social Democratic) and Bolshevik leadership, Luxemburg aspired to a kind of revolutionary consciousness that she believed could be realized only by working people who, to paraphrase philosopher Immanuel Kant, under the right circumstances could govern themselves. Whether this is actually possible or not is a different story. Nonetheless, it was Luxemburg's firm belief that the proletariat could aspire to such that helped fuel her faith in the possibility of creating a new society.
This past weekend Toronto's Globe and Mail dedicated its non-fiction review to The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg with reviewer Irene Gammel praising the letters for the way they
challenge the stereotype of "Red Rosa" as a ruthless fighter by revealing Luxemburg's sensitivity and humanity, a woman who, even from the darkness of her prison cell, showered others with her warmth and caring, as in this letter to Luise (Lulu) Kautsky from Cell No. 7 at Wronke women's prison: "I would very soon get you laughing again, even though your last few letters sounded disturbingly gloomy," she writes, cheering her moody friend by evoking memories: "When we two were together you always felt a little tipsy, as though we had been drinking bubbly." She lifts her own spirits by singing the "Countess's aria from Figaro" to an audience of blackbirds.