Saturday, June 11, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos, and Annie Di Donna

Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed. 

By Rachel Johannigmeier

Logic is one of the key components of our world, and many discoveries in math and science stem from it. However, what about the mathematicians who studied logic? How does rationality (or irrationality) figure into their discoveries?

Logicomix is the product of the work Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitrioou,Aalecos Papadatos, Annie Di Donna, Dimitris Karatzaferis, Thordis Paraskevas, and Anne Bardy put into researching logic, mathematics, and one of the famous researchers in the field, Bertrand Russell. The result is a graphic novel that does not fit comfortably into one particular category. Is it a text designed to educate readers? Is it a story about a quest? Is it a biography? Is it the story of creators trying to tell a story?  Logicomix contains all of these stories, and manages to create a cohesive and interesting narrative.

From Amazon
Story Information

Title: Logicomix

Writers: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou

Artists: Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna

Publisher: Bloomsbury (US)

Audience: Teen and Up

Logicomix has three stories interwoven in its tale. The framing device of the graphic novel is about the drafting phase of the graphic novel; It starts with a beginning that breaks the fourth wall as Apostolos Doxiadis addresses the audience. The main creators (Apostolos, Christos, Alecos, and Annie) are in Athens, and while Apostolos, Alecos, and Annie are intrigued by the emotional direction of the drafted story, Christos, a professional mathematical logician, acts as the critic of the story. The second story is a 1939 lecture of Bertrand Russell, a man known for his work in logic, mathematics, pacifism, and social justice. During this lecture, he explores the concept of logic, and poses a question: “what is logic?” (Doxiadis, etc. 35) The third story is the actual content of the lecture which concerns Russell’s own personal history. While the lecture only contains references to that history, the graphic novel expands on those events for the benefit of the reader.

While the story is a graphic novel, it uses a chapter structure to divide the plot. While this could serve as a disruption to the flow of the narrative, it actually aids the pace of the story. Logicomix covers a great deal of information throughout; even by the end, it is clear that the story had to be modified and does not depict a complete history. The creators provide a glossary of terms and people at the end of the book, and this is a place to search for further information.

It is also a graphic narrative that is challenging to read in one sitting, especially if you are unfamiliar with some of the topics, such as myself. However, the focus on the personal and the little details in the art (such as the depictions of Russell’s aging), helped keep my interest. The art and words work together to keep the reader's attention.  The narrative challenges the reader with questions, and even at the end, I am still pondering logic and whether or not people will ever completely understand it without going mad.

I would recommend this graphic novel to people who are interested in logic, math, history and abstract concepts who also want to read about it in a way that prefers a narrative approach over a technical approach to storytelling. As a graphic novel, Logicomix provides an outlet for a story that may not have reached a larger audience beyond mathematical professionals.


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