Marx, Freud & Ein­stein: Heroes of the Mind

Corinne Maier; Anne Simon, illus.
  • Review
By – August 25, 2017

In the reac­tionary years of Argentina’s Guer­ra Sucia—Dirty War” — the most notable polit­i­cal pris­on­er being held by the oppres­sive jun­ta was Jacobo Timer­man, a Jew­ish news­pa­per edi­tor and vocal dis­si­dent. Orig­i­nal­ly a refugee from Ukraine, Timer­man was among the near­ly 30,000 dis­ap­peared” indi­vid­u­als who caught the ire of Argen­tin­ian mil­i­tary lead­ers for his out­spo­ken views against the right-wing gov­ern­ment and his fer­vent sup­port of Zion­ism. He was incar­cer­at­ed and tor­tured. In his mem­oir Pris­on­er With­out a Name, Cell With­out a Num­ber, Timer­man recount­ed one notable exchange with his bru­tal, anti-Semit­ic tormentors: 

Argenti­na has three main ene­mies: Karl Marx, because he tried to destroy the Chris­t­ian con­cept of soci­ety; Sig­mund Freud, because he tried to destroy the Chris­t­ian con­cept of the fam­i­ly; and Albert Ein­stein, because he tried to destroy the Chris­t­ian con­cept of time and space.”

In the recent­ly col­lect­ed comics anthol­o­gy Marx, Freud & Ein­stein: Heroes of the Mind , French psy­cho­an­a­lyst, pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al, and writer Corinne Maier and artist Anne Simon explore the com­plex epis­te­molo­gies and pri­vate strug­gles of Marx, Freud, and Ein­stein. Orig­i­nal­ly a set of three sep­a­rate works , Maier and Simon ven­ture deep into the gray mat­ter of these men, reveal­ing what made them tick and what gave them the inspi­ra­tion to seek alter­na­tives to pre­vail­ing Euro­pean dog­mas, and ulti­mate­ly alter the high­er lim­its of human potential.

The aes­thet­ic choic­es here lend them­selves to the engag­ing dia­logue, which nev­er feels con­de­scend­ing nor delib­er­ate­ly oblique. There’s almost a sense of child­like won­der with­in the draw­ings. Read­ers should know that the French com­ic style employed in this vol­ume dif­fers sub­stan­tial­ly from Amer­i­can comics. The mate­r­i­al, while being faith­ful to the source mate­r­i­al, is play­ful and car­toon­ish. Con­cepts that would occu­py mul­ti­ple columns in a stan­dard col­lege text­book are con­densed into squig­gly-lined and invit­ing pan­els. This is a true visu­al treat.

At the same time, each man’s life and philoso­phies are explored in a man­ner that befits the seri­ous­ness of their nov­el and rad­i­cal ideas. While, indeed, each man is a Hero of the Mind,” they are also pre­sent­ed as not per­fect. There is ample space ded­i­cat­ed with­in each sec­tion to dis­play the frus­tra­tions — polit­i­cal, finan­cial, reli­gious, and sex­u­al — that each man faced while pos­tu­lat­ing his par­a­digm-break­ing ideas. While Marx strug­gled to make a liv­ing with his exhaus­tive inter­pre­ta­tions of Hegelian dialec­tics, both Freud and Ein­stein had to strug­gle to sur­vive dur­ing the rise of Nazi anti-Jew­ish per­se­cu­tion in Ger­many and Aus­tria. While their abstract endow­ments to human­i­ty end­ed up as their lega­cies, their per­son­al endeav­ors are just as fascinating.

These jour­neys into the mind are end­less­ly excit­ing. This is a high­ly-rec­om­mend­ed read.

Discussion Questions