03 October 2015

Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg, by Kate Evans

It's always nice to see female intellectuals get some recognition, and I am a sucker for graphic novels about Marxists. I found this one especially pleasant, and found the artwork especially lovely.

Although the book feels unbalanced in various ways -- the pacing is odd; occasional narratorial intrusions are not unwelcome but seem arbitrarily scattered throughout; the tone is sometimes uneven -- at its best moments, you get this wonderfully human sense of Luxemburg's (feisty) personality. I especially loved the various nude scenes, hairy legs and all -- a really excellent example of how graphic novels can portray a woman's body in a way that feels intimate without being objectifying or prurient.

As a biography, it is in many ways a conventional, step-by-step account of the woman's life: the author clearly has no compunctions about zooming past the eventful bits. Although there is a nice moment where Evans steps in to say that she will depart from the convention of defining women's lives through their relationships to men, this doesn't seem like a radically new form of lifewriting . As an intellectual biography, it's slightly disappointing, in that you don't really get a sense of a meaningful connection between biography and thought: you don't really see where her ideas are coming from, or how her life experiences influence them. Indeed, it might not be the most effective introduction to Luxemburg's work -- it's a little hard to get a grasp on her ideas, or more specifically, what her particular innovations or disagreements with others were. But the book does give you a clear sense of her overall beliefs, and -- what is especially nice -- quotes extensively from the woman's own writings.

Overall, a very pleasant, and often quite beautiful (in various ways) book.

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