Apostolos Doxiadis

Booklist Starred Review

By Ray Olson, BOOKLIST

From the 1880s to the 1930s, mathematicians and logicians were hot to settle the foundations of mathematics. In the thick of the great quest was Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), who is at the center of mathematician-novelist Doxiadis and confreres’ dramatic graphic novel. In a New York lecture days after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, the famously pacifist Russell waxes autobiographical to an ultimate effect that, though directly related to the outcome of the great quest, isn’t foreseen by the audience. Besides the frame constituted by the speech, from which the narrative flashes back to the incidents of Russell’s life, the book employs a second one featuring the creative team. In that frame, Doxiadis stresses the passions of Russell and his fellows, many of whose lives were marred by mental illness, while computer scientist coauthor Christos H. Papadimitriou points out that, though it failed, the quest enabled the development of computer science. The artists involved ask and sometimes answer especially good questions. Alecos Papadatos contributes exemplary clean-line-style cartooning (that is, in the European mode apotheosized by Hergé’s Tintin stories), and Annie Di Donna adds gratifying color. Subplots in both frames and main action further enrich this graphic-novel masterpiece.

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