Author: Art Spiegelman
No. of pages: 296
Genre: Graphic narrative, comic, War, Holocaust
Year of publication: 1986
Date read: 10 June 2017
Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.
Okay, this was such an impressive read, so I already know that my review won’t do it any justice. But here it goes anyways!
At first I thought that the panels (images) were very confusing and messy, but when I really got into the story, I really began to like them. The images are very simple, yet they tell such an important and strong story, so that’s kind of ambiguous. It seems like you’re reading a fantasy story, mostly because of the mice, cats, dogs and all, but it’s actually a story about something that really happened. And with that I get to my next point I wanted to address: it seems like you get the story straight from the source (Art’s father) himself, and you also get to read about Art’s process of creating this graphic narrative (loved that!), but that’s what makes it troubling. Art is the messenger and as a messenger he could have added and omitted things in order to create a better flowing story. I wouldn’t know if this is the actual case, but this was something in the back of my head while reading this book: you just never know what’s really true and what’s not.
I thought it was really interesting to read about the relationship between Art and his father Vladek. The last one has experienced war and the extermination camp Auschwitz, and even though it’s over in a great part of the book, he still lives as though the war is still going on. He lives very frugal, he collects things that may come in handy sometime. On the one hand this is the typical attitude of someone who has experienced war, but on the other hand, as Art himself says in the book: “In some ways he’s just like the racist caricature of the miserly old jew” (133).
Back to the representation of the process of the comic: this doesn’t only show the pain of the ones who experienced Auschwitz themselves, but also that of their children. They weren’t there themselves, but they have to live with a father and/or mother who were, they have to live with the aftermath of it all. Besides that, another thing that really grabbed me was that you not only get to read about the time in Auschwitz, but also how Vladek ‘lived’ his life before and after that, which makes the story all the more horrible, and yet strong.
Earlier this year I read If This is a Man by Primo Levi and the two stories show so many similarities: both describe their experiences in Auschwitz and these accounts are so alike! So, if you’ve read If This is a Man I highly recommend you read Maus by Art Spiegelman (or the other way around of course).