Episode 464 – Nora Krug

Virtual Memories Show 464:
Nora Krug

“I’ve been using illustration as a form of research, trying to figure out what kind of traces war and history leave on us, and how our thinking and feeling is impacted over the course of decades and centuries, based on the political experience we have as people and as countries.”

Artist, illustrator & author Nora Krug rejoins the show to talk about her work on the new Graphic Edition of Timothy Snyder’s ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Ten Speed Press). We get into how the project originated and how illustrating On Tyranny compelled her to live up to its lessons, her approach to illustrating the book and how a visual experience can create a new reading of it, her use of personal photographs from the Third Reich, and how this project serves as a companion to her award-winning graphic memoir BELONGING. We talk about her concerns about misread propaganda imagery, the assumptions she had to make about readers’ visual literacy and what illustrations and design could constitute “hijacking” Snyder’s text, the ways photographs can make people accountable, what it means when governments censor photos, and the contrasting perspectives she and Snyder brought to the book: an American facing Europe and a European facing America. We also discuss how the text was updated post-January 6 and which of its lessons are “nice” vs. “critical”, the optimism that lies in the midst of the book’s dire message, what she & Snyder have learned from each other during their virtual book tour, Nora’s realization that she has an artistic mission for the rest of her life, and more! Give it a listen! And go read On Tyranny & Belonging!

“On Tyranny is a call to action; now that I’ve illustrated the book, I’d better live up to its lessons.”

“Historical photographs can draw you in immediately and can also give you a sense of how history was perceived in a particular moment.”

“In a funny way, Timothy & I are both providing an opposite experience to where we came from: he as an American writes about Europe, and I as a German illustrate something about America.”

“The sense of agency is the only way we can feel a sense of optimism. Once you feel responsible, and feel you can contribute to change, it makes you feel better, more hopeful.”

“When we look, we become witnesses.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Nora Krug is the author of Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home, which was winner of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography and named one of the Times’ Critics Top Books of 2018 by The New York Times. He work has garnered medals from the Society of Illustrators and the Art Directors Club of New York, and was chosen for Houghton Mifflin’s Best American series and the Sundance Film Festival. She received the Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, and was named Illustrator of the Year 2019 by the Victoria and Albert Museum. She is an associate professor of illustration at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Her new book is the Graphic Edition of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

Follow Nora on Twitter and Instagram, and listen to Nora’s 2018 episode.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Nice photo of Nora by Nina Subin; the bookshelf one is by me, from 2018. They’re  on my instagram.

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