In this Eisner Award-winning comic, an American undergraduate named Sophie spends time in Paris, where she longs for a life beyond the mainstream. When Sophie befriends a vegan anarchist, with whom she sets out on a hitchhiking trip, she struggles with the practical and ethical difficulties of practicing radical politics.
Sophie Yanow...is humbly conscious of the limits of her experience, [and] she makes you smile and cringe and sympathize anyway. Yanow perfectly captures that early-20s state of mind where you want to have principles but don't know exactly what yours are, so you're all too inclined to embrace those of anyone who seems intriguing (or just cute) ... The journey that follows isn't suspenseful or surprising—it's not even particularly angsty as college stories go. And yet, Yanow's got this particular combination of astuteness and humility that makes the very lack of drama engaging. It feels nice to sit with someone who looks at the world the way she does. After a while, you start noticing all sorts of nuances within each low-key anecdote, and you'll wonder how much you're overlooking as you charge through life at your usual pace ... Her ligne claire ('clear line') drawings are so geometrical and spare, they could almost be ideograms ... This combination of economy and universality is at once unassuming, wry and subversive ... The apparent simplicity of her compositions is deceptive, and her message is paradoxical. Even as she strips away extraneous detail, she's teasing you about your own tendency to oversimplify everything. The Contradictions isn't just an engaging read, it's a warming and affirming one.
This funny and very knowing graphic novel will still strike an exceedingly loud chord with anyone who is, or has ever been, a fresher, far from home and all at sea ... Drawn in black and white, Yanow’s figures are a couple of rectangles topped by the circles of their anoraks, rucksacks and spectacles, while the boulevards and canals around them appear hardly at all. But though such a pared-back style can hardly be said to be beautiful, it’s perfect here. As they trudge from city to city, their days bereft of beauty, variety and everyday joy, Sophie and Zena could be almost anywhere. In the end, for all its comedy, The Contradictions is a book about how principles, if too firmly held, can make a person blind—not just to new ideas, but to all the good things in the world.
In its own delightful contradiction, the art in The Contradictions is beautifully simplistic. The entire work is in black and white, completely monochrome with no more than some crosshatching for a few shades. Yet, bold backgrounds and certain panels with novel angles make the style everything but dull. In addition to its strong literary value and artistic flair, The Contradictions makes an excellent read for anyone who would like to study abroad or has already done so ... Nothing awakens a new perspective like travel, and The Contradictions will spark that fire to go.