In 2017, during the first year of Donald J. Trump’s Presidency, the historian Timothy Snyder published “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” a slim volume which interspersed maxims such as “Be kind to our language” and “Defend institutions” with biographical and historical sketches drawn from his deep knowledge of twentieth-century European history. The book became an instant best-seller. For those who were looking for ways to combat the insidious creep of authoritarianism at home, Snyder’s book seemed to offer an informed and practical handbook. As the New Yorker staff writer Sue Halpern wrote, in June, 2020, “For the past few years, I’ve dipped into ‘On Tyranny,’ finding it weirdly orienting at those times when I’ve barely recognized this country and its government, and when the vitriol and distrust that now cleave us have made me feel hopeless. It has been like a map—the more I study its features, the more I understand where we have landed.” Trump may be out of the White House now, but the forces that sent him there have hardly disappeared from public life. So it seems fitting that an illustrated edition of “On Tyranny,” done in collaboration with the artist Nora Krug, has just been published this week.
Krug is no stranger to tackling dark and complex subjects graphically; her visual memoir “Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home,” is an excavation of communal memory in postwar Germany and her family’s involvement in the Second World War. In a note included in the illustrated edition, Krug explains what she hoped to accomplish through her use of collages, sketches, comic strips, and embroidery: “I use a variety of visual styles and techniques to emphasize the fragmentary nature of memory and to acknowledge the emotive effects of historical events. . . . I did so to emphasize that tyranny is universal and timeless. Some of the artifacts chosen for this book were found at flea markets and antique shops—depositories of our collective consciousness. I see these images as silent witnesses; they urge us to commit to remembering the stories that shape us, and they help us understand that history is more than just the past.”
Here are a few of Krug’s illustrated vignettes:
From Chapter 9, “Be Kind to Our Language”
From Chapter 10, “Believe in Truth”
From Chapter 11, “Investigate”
From Chapter 13, “Practice Corporeal Politics”
These pages are excerpted from “On Tyranny Graphic Edition: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” by Timothy Snyder, illustrated by Nora Krug, out this month from Ten Speed Press.
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