The most difficult task in creating a biography of a forward-thinking individual is to avoid the anecdotal approach. The most memorable biographies infuse the proceedings with some heartfelt emotions, providing an passionate anchor as a hook for the reader.
Luckily for the readers of Corinne Maier and Anne Simon’s biography series, the former is a noted psychoanalyst and the latter is a gifted and playful illustrator, and this combination is clearly a winner.
Both Freud and Marx are similar in approach, so I’m going to tackle them both head-on, with diversions into a particular book whenever necessary.
Corinne Maier “proudly acknowledges not being a member of any club, scientific society or political party”, and her lack of prejudice shows. The books’ scripts are breezy and considered, and deliver insight into both thinkers’ theories and personal lives without expanding on a personal agenda.
Maier weaves an intricate web that is deceptively plain but clearly shows how the protagonists’ theories often flowed from personal conflicts in their daily lives. On top of that, She treats these books as introductions, so a lot is touched upon and briefly summarized.
As a result, intriguing ideas get the chance to shine and embed themselves in the reader’s mind, meaning you can pick and choose which ideas you want to explore further in other books.
Dynamic pages from Freud drawn by Anne Simon
The cheerful and even flirtatious drawings from French illustrator Anne Simon are a perfect match for this breezy but intriguing introduction to these great thinkers. It is easy to see why Simon won the New Talent prize at the Angoulême Festival in 2004.
Her skill at layering a comic page with mischievous constructions is unparalleled and is never detrimental to its reading. Her cartoony figures swerve over the page, fully realized and clearly distinguishable. She clearly has fun with the period setting, to the point where she is not afraid to insert anachronistic elements to prove a point or inject some humor.
Anne Simon’s Marx as the people’s hero
Of the two books, Freud comes off as the better read, although I think this is solely due to the subject matter. Marx’s life is a rollercoaster of events, with the book often compressing into a few pages years of theorizing and being on the run from the authorities because of his communist tendencies.
Freud is a more relaxed experience and goes a bit more into its subject’s less turbulent personal live than Marx. However, both are excellent reads and offer quite a few insights into each thinker’s life and theories.
Simon and Maier have produced an easy accessible biography series in Freud and Marx that is equally informative and playful. I can only hope that there are more books in the works for this series.
Both Freud and Marx, by Corinne Maier and Anne Simon, were originally published in French by Dargaud, and are published in English by Nobrow. Both English-language editions are full-color hardcovers counting 56 pages and retailing for €19.75.