Biographers face distinctive challenges: They must not only reconstruct their subjects’ lives, but they must also animate those lives to some extent. Further, they must distill the details to craft a story and they must provide context. Maier’s biographies of Marx and Freud, originally published in 2013 in French, accomplish animation, selectivity, and context. They are not, however, typical and would not fulfill an academic expectation for source material. But they do provide an invigorating reading experience, using a comic-book format for Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud to omnisciently narrate their own lives. The writing takes a tongue-in-cheek tone while explaining difficult concepts like Marxism and socialist revolution as well as Freud’s revolutionary psychiatry. The Marx biography effectively conveys his multiple struggles with ideological acceptance and personal finance. The Freud biography has much tougher terrain to contend with and uses phalli (which could easily be mistaken for mushrooms) in the art. Teens will appreciate the irreverent tone and easy-to-read graphic format. They may learn a thing or two along the way about these men and their groundbreaking accomplishments. Both biographies provide cradle-to-grave coverage; the Marx biography adds a few pages to depict his legacy, while the Freud biography concludes with Freud looking into the twenty-first century.These biographies are best for teens aged 14 and up.
Barbara Krasner is an award-winning poet and historian who focuses her writing on the Jewish experience in America and during the Holocaust. She teaches in the history department of The College of New Jersey and serves as Director, Mercer Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Education Center.