Eurocomics Spotlight : “Einstein, Eddington And The Eclipse”

There are interesting comics, unique comics, unconventional comics, innovative comics — and then there’s this, something truly singular in, dare I say, the history of the medium.

The “this” in question in 2019’s Einstein, Eddington And The Eclipse (or, in its native Portuguese, Einstein Eddington E O Eclipse), subtitled Travel Impressions (or Impressoes De Viagem), a lavish publication that consists of both a thoughtful, scholarly, long-form essay by Ana Simoes and an equally long-form, but decidedly impressionistic, comic by Ana Matilde Sousa that together provide a holistic and multi-dimensional view of the expeditions to Principe Island undertaken by A.S. (colloquially Arthur) Eddington to observe the total solar eclipse of 1919 and thereby confirm Einstein’s then-controversial theory of relativity. So yeah — when I say this is a singular work, I don’t exaggerate in the least.

It’s also, frankly, a challenging one, but that’s not such a huge surprise when one considers that it was published by Chili Com Carne, one of the most forward-thinking and daring comics publishers around and an outfit for whom the term “radical” is far too confining. As with their later Mishima : Manifesto De Laminas by Tiago Manuel (previously reviewed on this very blog), this project also began life as an exhibition — but at a museum, not a gallery, specifically Portugal’s Museu Nacional de Historia Natural e da Cienca. Don’t take that, however, to mean that there’s anything especially tedious or dry about it, even if you absolutely despise learning (shame on you!) — on the contrary, by the time one has made it through all 248 (!) pages, the word that will probably come to mind more than any other if one is reaching for a descriptive for the book is poetic.

Granted, in the early going that doesn’t seem like the most probable outcome — however, while I confess to having been previously unfamiliar with respected academic Simoes, her essay is a thoroughly absorbing one that goes well beyond establishing particulars and takes readers on a journey that explores the “who” every bit as much as the “how” and the “why.” Rote recitation of fact only takes you so far, after all, and Simoes takes it upon herself to take us a lot further than that — so if you’re prepared to put in the time to read this, expect to be rewarded for that investment. Still, lest we forget, this is a comics blog —

Sousa’s name may not be a terribly familiar one to many readers here, by the nom de plume she frequently works under, Hetamoe, likely is (or at least should be), and her portion of the book, consisting of a rich array of downright sensuous digitally-rendered images thoughtfully and intuitively assembled, laid out, and printed (it’s gotta be said the printing here is absolutely wondrous to behold), and juxtaposed with portions of Eddington’s correspondence with his mother, his sister, and the Lisbon Observatory represents a veritable feast of sensory delights. Yes, it fits the definition of a “travelogue” in both the broadest and strictest sense — but it’s so much more than that, as well, taking in the sights, sounds, feelings and textures of his journey to create a kaleidoscopic whirlwind that explores the very act of exploration itself, as well as its sub rosa “ripple effect” ramifications on people, places, animals, and even inanimate objects. If I said I’d experienced anything quite like it before I’d be lying, and I say that as someone who reads a hell of a lot of comics.

Stated plainly, then, I can’t recommend this book strongly enough — and even that might be selling it short. If I’d been aware of it when it first came out (my bad!), it would have most certainly landed a spot on my “best-of” list for that year — instead, it’ll have to settle for a spot on my “best-of” list of all time. I hope that will serve as some small compensation for my tardiness.

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Einstein, Eddington And The Eclipse is available for 15 Euros directly from Chili Com Carne’s website at https://www.chilicomcarne.com/index.php/shop/lowcccost-61/not-dead-yet-2011-2018-131-detail

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