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Sartre Hardcover – September 1, 2017
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Mathilde Ramadier, the author of the ‘Sartre’ comic book, which is illustrated by Anaïs Depommier, opts for Jean-Paul-Charles-Eymard Sartre, although happily this formulation only occurs in the rather sketchy family tree at the start of the book, which chiefly serves to establish that Sartre was Albert Schweitzer’s first cousin once removed and that his forebears included engineers and eccentrics.
The book is almost as much about ‘Beaver’ - Simone de Beauvoir - as about Sartre and provides an outline of their lives, times and thought. The latter is too compressed and too cryptic to make much, if any, sense (“by creating concepts. I revealed necessities”; “the ‘I’ is nevertheless the producer of interiority, from a layer that you need to solve the problem of self-consciousness”).
The text also combines clumsy exposition (“You yourself forbade them from staging your play in Austrian theaters, because suddenly you found it to be too critical of the party” “Yes, yes and you approved of my decision”) with risibly inauthentic expressions (“My Grandfather had a gift for exalting any situation”; “my pride rears me back as soon as I feel accused”), made worse by the fact that the author’s vocabulary sometimes appears to run ahead of their understanding (“I can make out your wisdom, the wisdom that knows when to remove itself from neligeable [sic] epiphenomena”; “I believe that it is by the intermediary[sic] of others that we know ourselves best!”).
It would be nice to able to say that the text is at least offset by beautiful artwork but one really can’t, added to which Sartre’s exotropic eye condition is not portrayed consistently.
It is a great pity that the wit and the economy on display on the book’s cover are not replicated, pictorially or textually, within. Those approaching Sartre with little or no prior knowledge will pick up a few interesting tidbits of information (such as his producing a screenplay for John Huston’s film on Freud and his rejection of the Nobel Prize for Literature) but I fear that their understanding of existentialism will not have been enhanced.
I highly recommend Sartre for those who want to read a complex and sophisticated example of a graphic novel aimed at an audience decidely more mature. Yet another example of the wonderful affordances for this medium.
It's also historically sloppy, on page 88 a caption tells us that Sartre took a Douglas DC-8 to New York, in January 1945. DC-8s were first built in 1958 but there it is, illustrated, a 4-engine transatlantic pressurized jetliner. It's probably the result of a typo or copy smudge in some source document (DC-3, 1936. DC-4, 1938.) but the fact that both the writer and the artist missed this does not give a reader confidence. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK, do not read it. If only I could give it zero stars.
“Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth” by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, about Bertrand Russell is how you write a philosophical biography.
Beautifully and authentically rendered with a beige, green, and muddy palette, Sartre's ancestry and own life is acted out in cell form with thoughts on existentialism, resistance against World War II, world travels, his love of Simone 'Beaver' de Beauvoir; all to bind together to a somewhat hasty ending. Ah, also, it's hard to draw one's gaze away from his googly eyes and codfish lips.
By constantly introducing the ideas, unseen aspects and feelings of the philosopher in an artistic way, the reader is seduced to an incomparable journey into the graphics and the dialogues. A delicate immediacy provides a sufficient knowledge of the life and his interior monologue, but also of the quests with the plurality of the intellectual that constituted his daily life. Contemporary reality fades, while the extensive surroundings of his interesting time amaze your senses via colorful and vibrant graphics with precision accompanied by a vivid description.
A different biography, a unique approach able to entice into reading the radical life of the philosopher.
Veramente una bella graphic novel, che si gusta pur senza essere filosofi o esperti di Sartre.