Maus I & II

by Art Spiegelman
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize Special Letters Award, 1992
Pantheon, softcover box set, 280 p.
Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and History itself.
Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: The first is Spiegelman’s father’s account of how he and his wife survived Hitler’s Europe, a harrowing tale filled with countless brushes with death, improbably escapes, and the terror of confinement and betrayal. The second is the author’s tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments and passing visits against a backdrop of history too large to pacify. At all levels, this is the ultimate survivor’s tale – and that, too, of the chidren who somehow survive even the survivors.
There have been several wonderful reviews of this lately that I'm not sure I have anything new to add. But what an incredible way to tell a story about the Holocaust! Art Spiegelman’s drawings are powerful and really make the words and the horror of what his father and all the other Jews experienced all the more vivid. Much has been said about his use of animals to depict different groups (the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, the Americans as dogs, etc.) and I think this works really effectively to make it not just the story of Vladek and Anya Spiegelman but all Jews and everyone who was affected by what happened.

One of my favourite parts of the story though was how Art related the process of getting the story from his father alongside the story itself. It was this look at their relationship that made it extremely personal, and touching.
Partly because of the visual style, and also Vladek’s resourcefulness, especially after he found himself in Auschwitz, I also couldn’t help but think of the film, Life is Beautiful, while I was reading this. Such a beautiful, moving film!
Thanks to the nudge from a couple of challenges, I'm so glad to have finally read this!
My Rating: 4.5/5

(image found here)

*originally posted at In Spring it is the Dawn