A. Einstein: The Poetry of Real is to be shelved under the classification Comics biography/Scientists. Truly. It says so on the back of the book. That there is such a classification is further testament to the fact that the world of visual storytelling is ever expanding and that I should ceased to be amazed by the sheer range of graphic novel topics and subjects on offer, I really should. Nbm Graphic Novels – a publisher I had not until now heard of – seems to have carved for itself something of a niche in the biographical side of things, and not just with scientists, having thus far released 200+ titles detailing the lives of the likes of Elvis and The Beatles, as well as many less immediately obvious luminaries from other creative fields such as Philip K. Dick, Glenn Gould and Christian Dior. Many are translated from European editions and this, at least, does not surprise me – Europe has always been leaps and bounds ahead of the UK and US in exploring and expanding the remit and possibilities of the art.
This, then, is my first ‘Comics biography/Scientists’ graphic novel. And if, like me, you can count the things you know about Albert Einstein on the fingers of two hands, it’s also the first true insight into the more personal minutiae of the man himself. Did you know, for example, that his late-night violin playing used to annoy his neighbours? Or that he used to employ a certain mathematical precision in cooking for dinner guests, in order to maximise conversation time? These are minor details in the heady mix of triumph and tragedy that was Albert Einstein’s life but details perhaps so easily missed or as warmly recounted in more traditional prose accounts of same.
Writer Marwan Kahil and artist Manuel Garcia Iglesias commence his story not at birth but in 1884, when Einstein receives from his father a gift of a compass, his curiosity about which’s functioning sets, if you’ll forgive me, the direction for his future. Thereafter segueing between his earlier years and various meetings and conversations in a ‘present day’ Princeton of 1953, Einstein serves as his own narrator in a gently paced, black and white reminiscence, unforcefully and enlighteningly expounding his many theories along the way, before a touching and inspiring epilogue closes the story. I came out of the journey knowing, and what’s more grateful to be knowing, much more about the man and his life – and, indeed, physics, never my strongest suit – than might have been gleaned through any other medium, and that must surely demonstrate what a powerful and worthwhile form this can be.
Postscripted with a key dates timeline, a bibliography and sources section and a series of reflections based on quotes of the all-too-human genius, this is a job very well done. Recommended. Mike Wild