Once I opened Maus by Art Spiegelman I could not close I finished the whole edition. I read the complete Maus, where both of Spiegelman’s books were compiled together. This book was the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer prize and it rightly deserves it’s place among the greats.
The story revolves around Art and his father Vladek, who is a survivor of the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Vladek tells the harrowing tale of his family’s persecution in Poland and the horror’s they endured under the persecution of the Nazi’s. It is a graphic novel, where the Jews are portrayed as mice, the Germans as cats, the poles as Pigs and the Americans as dogs. I know there is controversy in Poland with Maus as they were deeply offended to be portrayed as pigs, they come across as cruel as the Nazi’s in the book if I’m being honest.
I have become somewhat fatigued with the whole wartime stories genre lately, it seems nowadays that every second novel is based around the world wars or a conflict in general. This book was different and refreshing. The book portrays the horror of the Holocaust but also the complicated relationship that exists between Vladek and his son Art. Art is trying to piece together the story of his fathers experience during the war for his comic book.I enjoyed this part more than the war time extracts as it acknowledges to the reader the process by which Art put together Maus and the troubles he encountered on the way. His father is a cantankerous character and Art struggles with his peculiarities and his failing health. I laughed at the many instances where they were embroiled in petty fights, that only exist within a family over the simplest of subjects.
Spiegelman’s drawings are simplistic but effective, the content of the story itself is powerful and moving therefore the illustrations did not need to be detailed in that regard. There was no need for the blood and guts approach that is present in most war novels or films His skill was to compile a graphic novel which was clear and to the point, the story jumps from present to past seamlessly. I was amazed at the complex relationship that existed between father and son. They seemed to be stuck in two separate worlds , but a strong bond existed between the two.
This book is a must read for everyone. A friend commented once he saw that I was reading Maus that I was trying to relive my youth reading comics again. This book is a graphic novel of course but the content and storytelling in it is as powerful as any other literature on the Holocuast. I was captivated by the misery and cruelty that existed within the tale and found great amusement in the arguments which took place between father and son for comic relief. A moving and brilliant piece of writing.