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Albert Einstein: The Poetry Of The Real by Manuel Garcia Iglesias (graphic novel review).

November 2, 2019 | By | Reply More

Graphic novels are branching out to tell true stories, including biographies. ‘Albert Einstein: The Poetry Of Real’ is the life story of the most famous scientist of our time.

The book uses the device of a framing story that has Einstein telling a student about his life. The first panel is captioned ‘Ulm, German Empire, 1884’ and the opening pages show his father giving him a compass when he was five years-old, a small thing but it triggered his need to understand the laws of the universe. Then we cut to The Institute For Advanced Study, Princeton, United States, Autumn 1953 and see that Einstein is talking to a student named Mark. A journalist approaches to ask Einstein what he thinks about Senator Joe McCarthy, the execution of the Rosenbergs and the FBI suspicion that he is a communist sympathiser. The great man does not respond.

Einstein isn’t well and Mark mentions an operation that can save his life but our hero demurs. ‘It doesn’t make sense to prolong things indefinitely.’ He resumes his life story at Munich, 1894 when he is arguing with his father about staying in prep school, followed by a sequence where he’s reading Immanuel Kant instead of paying attention to the teacher and is rebuked. After that, he left and ‘never gave up thinking that it was a miracle that curiosity could survive the German education system!

I’m not going to recount Einstein’s life story because you can look it up on-line. However, this book is a better way to read it. For one thing, the black and white artwork is beautiful and a treat for the eye. It seems that the author has used Einstein’s own words as much as possible and there are plenty of quotable speeches. I found it endearing that he gave credit to the small circle of friends and fellow scientists, first in Switzerland and, later, internationally, with whom he could discuss his ideas.

It was also fascinating that his most famous theories started with a thought experiment, almost a daydream, in which he framed the big question in everyday terms: two ships approaching a lighthouse or a man falling off a building. After getting an idea, Einstein had to work for years to develop a mathematical proof of it, a process in which he was greatly helped by his close friend Michelle Besso. The thought experiments, like everything else, are very prettily illustrated by Manuel Garcia Iglesias. He has a particular knack for detailed drawings of the wonderful buildings in old European cities.

There is, of course, a dark side to all this. Albert Einstein was a nice fellow but his path through life coincided with one of the blackest periods in German history, the rise of the Nazi Party. Fortunately, he got out in time. By then, he was famous and the scientific community is international in scope so there were job offers open. He settled in the USA but, post-war, that wasn’t an altogether comfortable place for one suspected of communist sympathies. The background of right-wing politics and nationalist stupidity makes the story relevant for our own times, alas.

I had an electronic copy of the graphic novel but it also exists as a hardback edition, both formats available direct from publisher NBM. This is a book you will want to keep and to pick up now and again to contemplate the ‘thought experiments’ or even just to look at the pretty pictures. I thoroughly enjoyed it and note that NBM graphic novels publish other biographical books, too, with subjects ranging from Henry Thoreau to Bob Marley and The Beatles. Comicbooks have certainly moved on! Mind you, Superman could still whup any of these guys.

Eamonn Murphy

November 2019

(pub:NBM, 2019. 128 page graphic novel hardback. Price: $19.99 (US), £17.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-68112-202-1)

check out website: ww.nbmpub.com/comicslit/einstein/einsteinhome.html

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Category: Comics, Culture

About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who has written a few short stories too.

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