Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth share button
Apostolos Doxiadis
Format Paperback
Dimensions 6.70 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)
Pages 352
Publisher Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date September 2009
ISBN 9781596914520
Book ISBN 10 1596914521
About Book

An innovative, dramatic graphic novel about the treacherous pursuit of the foundations of mathematics.

This exceptional graphic novel recounts the spiritual odyssey of philosopher Bertrand Russell. In his agonized search for absolute truth, Russell crosses paths with legendary thinkers like Gottlob Frege, David Hilbert, and Kurt Gödel, and finds a passionate student in the great Ludwig Wittgenstein. But his most ambitious goal—to establish unshakable logical foundations of mathematics—continues to loom before him. Through love and hate, peace and war, Russell persists in the dogged mission that threatens to claim both his career and his personal happiness, finally driving him to the brink of insanity.

This story is at the same time a historical novel and an accessible explication of some of the biggest ideas of mathematics and modern philosophy. With rich characterizations and expressive, atmospheric artwork, the book spins the pursuit of these ideas into a highly satisfying tale.

Probing and ingeniously layered, the book throws light on Russell’s inner struggles while setting them in the context of the timeless questions he spent his life trying to answer. At its heart, Logicomix is a story about the conflict between an ideal rationality and the unchanging, flawed fabric of reality.


Dan Kois

Logicomix is an engaging, energetic work that makes big ideas accessible without dumbing them down.
—The Washington Post

Jim Holt

…presented with real graphic verve. (Even though I'm a text guy, I couldn't keep my eyes off the witty drawings.) To ginger up the story, the authors often deviate from the actual facts…We are assured, however, that no liberties have been taken with "the great adventure of ideas." And for the most part the ideas are conveyed accurately, and with delightful simplicity.
—The New York Times

Publishers Weekly

An ambitious full-color exploration of the life and ideas of philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, the book meticulously interconnects Russell’s life, the timelessness of his ideas and the process of creating the book. While a comic about the “quest for the foundations of mathematics” may seem arduous, it is engrossing on many levels; the story moves, despite heavy philosophical and technical information, as the images, dialogue and narration play off each other. Russell’s story is framed within a speech he gave on the brink of America’s entry into WWII, in which he expounds his life and philosophical journey. Russell’s story is also framed by the creators working in Greece, as they discuss and mold his life into a narrative structure. One of the most prominent themes is the conflict and symbiosis between “madness and logic.” The fear of madness haunts Russell because of childhood trauma, as he neurotically pushes himself toward what he conceives of as its opposite, a system for certainty. Inventive, with both subtle and overt narrative techniques, the comic form organizes the complex ideas into a simpler system, combining to form a smart and engaging journey through the ambiguity of truth. (Sept.)

Library Journal

Orphaned, insecure, and brilliant, Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) sought true certainty through mathematics and logic. His Principia Mathematica, created with Alfred North Whitehead over ten painful years, brought wide acclaim but not certainty, as the Vienna Circle of philosophers and Ludwig Wittgenstein upset his approach with wholly new paradigms. Ultimately, Russell turned to how to live one's life and found peace at last by supporting pacifism and a rational, humanistic ethic. The comics creators begin the story in Athens as characters themselves, before Russell takes over as narrator. As finale, we join the creators at a performance of Aeschylus's Oresteia, where Athena herself resolves the tragic cycle through rational ethics: democratic vote and tolerance of differences. VERDICT This brilliant graphic novel wraps academia's big ideas of Truth and Meaning into a story about the thinkers and their passions, by turns fascinating and charming with deft color art. Doxiadis is an expert in the relationship of mathematics to narrative and Papadimitriou a computer science professor.—M.C.

Kirkus Reviews

Bertrand Russell-philosophical superhero?Part of the narrative strategy here is metacomic: Authors Doxiadis and Papadimitriou, along with artists Papadatos and Di Donna, are not only the creators of this graphic novel with academic underpinnings, they are characters within it, confronting the challenge of how to make Bertrand Russell's inquiries into logic and mathematics understandable to the "average reader," while questioning whether said average reader even exists. They ultimately conclude that "mathematics and comics, like oil and water, don't ever mix!" The average reader (if he or she exists) might well agree. Framing the narrative is a lecture given by Russell, protested by isolationists, on the eve of Britain's entry into World War II against Nazi Germany. Since he has been asked to speak on "The Role of Logic in Human Affairs," he jokes, "If I take the injunction literally you shall hear the shortest lecture in recorded history." Interspersed with his talk, and the authors' attempts to turn this presentation into a graphic narrative, are flashbacks exploring "Bertie" Russell's life and the intellectual development that led to Principia Mathematica in collaboration with Alfred North Whitehead. Soap-opera strains of madness taint the bloodlines of philosophers who strive for logic; affairs of the heart owe little to the brain. Young Russell challenges his philosophical mentors and ultimately faces challenges from his own gifted student, Ludwig Wittgenstein. For those who come to this narrative without much background, the volume helpfully includes a short afterword that helps distinguish fact from invention, a longer notebook with capsule biographies of those featured in thenarrative, definitions of concepts and even a bibliography. Despite the collaborators' best efforts to emphasize the human element, this graphic novel can't help but read a lot like a textbook. Author tour to New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore. Agent: Clare Conville/Conville & Walsh