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.