Party Fun with Kant by Nicolas Mahler
Translated by James Reidel

I don’t as a rule read much in the way of graphic novels; in fact you could probably count them on one hand… (Having said that, one of the most memorable things I’ve ever read is “Maus” which was decades ago and still haunts me). However, when Lizzy very kindly sent me “Party Fun with Kant” recently, I couldn’t resist!

The book is a collection of cartoons by German artist and author Nicolas Mahler; and as you might guess from the title, the focus is on philosophers and their quirks and beliefs. So the book collects together four or five page sections with wonderful titles like “Plato’s Testimony” or “Society Reporter Jean-Jacques Rousseau” or indeed the titular “Party Fun with Kant”. In a few short panels, Mahler aims to pin down the worldview of each philospher as well as making you laugh – and he certainly does the latter!

Each philosopher has their own title page

To a certain extent, of course, your response to the cartoons will depend on how much you know about each philosopher and their theories; and to be honest, I have limited knowledge of some of them. So, for example, “Barthes the Bear” (yes, it’s That Man again!!) means a little more to me than “Epicurus’ Sex Education”. However, somehow that didn’t seem to matter, and I did find the book very entertaining!

Crabby Schopenhauer

Particular standouts were the Rousseau mentioned above; “A Dream Wedding with Simone de Beauvoir”, where her feminist theories destroy any ardour left in the couple; “Schopenhauer’s Driving School”, wherein the philosopher does indeed appear to be as grumpy as I’ve previously experienced; and “Camp Friedrich Nietzsche”, where someone has been mad enough to put old Fred in charge of a group of boy scouts! Interestingly, E.M. Cioran is a name I only came across recently, when reading “Essayism” for #fitzcarraldofortnight; but his cartoon entry is a hoot with his aphorisms appearing in fortune cookies!

Nietzsche out in the woods – no doubt a recipe for disaster!

I love Mahler’s drawing style (kind of a bit Tom Gauld, whom I also enjoy); and the text is ably translated by James Reidel. The book comes with a list of sources for the texts used in the cartoons, which leaves plenty of scope for future exploration too!

So although I’m not necessarily well versed in all the philosophers featured, I did have a great time with this book (only my second ever Seagull title, I think!) And inevitably, I’m afraid, it couldn’t help but send me off to YouTube to search out a couple of clips to share! The first is the wonderful Monty Python folks at the Hollywood Bowl doing the “Philosopher’s Song” – just hilarious!! (WARNING – there’s a bit of bad language lurking!)

What is possibly not so well know is that the often controversial author Christopher Hitchens (whose work I hope to get to soon…) was a huge Python fan, and there is a little clip of him very sweetly doing his own version of the song online too – which I share here for your amusement…

Who knew philosophy could be such a laugh? 😀