The Labyrinth: An Existential Odyssey with Jean-Paul Sartre

Comic Arts: Abrams. Apr. 2020. 160p. ISBN 9781419740022. $16.99. Rated: Teen+. philosophy
Argon’s first full-length graphic work condenses the key concepts of existential philosophy covered in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness in this charming, accessible allegory about a rat trapped in a maze. As the rat obsessively searches for cheese, he wonders whether death ultimately makes life meaningful or absurd, ponders whether the role his expectations and desires have in shaping his reality, and realizes he’ll never find satisfaction as long as he’s focused on satisfying himself. Some of the more complex or contradictory ideas here are illustrated through dialog with another rat—in one memorable exchange, our protagonist declares that “To be free is to have no limits,” only for his counterpart to reply, “But without limits, everything would be possible and you would have no choices to make.” This heady, heavy concept quickly becomes understandable as it’s pointed out that a wall standing between the rat and his cheese isn’t a problem…his problem is that he continues to want what he can’t have, thus choosing to remain dissatisfied. Argon’s illustrations are pleasantly dynamic; an introduction and afterword by two philosophy professors offer further insight into Sartre’s ideas.
VERDICT A great primer for anyone, but especially YA readers interested in existentialism

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