Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou


Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth is a graphic novel surrounding the work of Bertrand Russell in his quest to find the foundation of mathematics. I have read very few graphic novels, and am not familiar with the works of many mathematicians. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this gripping book – it tells a wonderful story! Logicomix follows Russell through his life; chronicling how he discovered his interest in mathematics, and the deep need for him to look for reason, a logical explanation for everything.

The book alternates between fourth-wall-breaking sections with the authors discussing the book, and the actual events of the book: a play on self-reference. The first half of the book explores a few mathematical concepts, alluding to Euclid’s propositions and the barber paradox. As the book progresses, the mathematics becomes increasingly abstract, giving way to a grander story. The story is very poignant and moving; portraying bright mathematicians such as Cantor, the inventor of set theory, succumbing to mental illness. The book also chronicles events during the First World War, and Russell’s plea for pacifism during the time. This was the most gripping part of the book, portraying the horrors of war, and the blind jingoism behind it.

The artwork is well done. The expressions on Russel and Wittgenstein’s faces(among many others) are very emotive. There is a subtle transformation of the color to reflect Russell’s changing attitudes over the course of the book. The artists, Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna did a commendable job on this book.

While this book didn’t really teach me any new mathematical concepts, I came away from it with a greater respect for and awareness of the work pursued by mathematicians. My only gripe with it would be the ending, I found it a bit too sudden. Here’s my favorite panel from the book: