Thursday, March 26, 2009

Maus by Art Spiegelman


Spiegelman, Art. 1986. Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History.

This is a true-must-read of a book, well, a graphic novel to be exact. But still, must-read at all accounts. I loved the format of this one. No, not just the graphicness of it. But the framework of the story. How this novel is just as much about a father-son relationship--in all its complications--as it is about Jewishness, about the Holocaust. I also love the exploration of the psychology of it. So often with "Holocaust" books the issue of long-term effects, of psychological and emotional trauma that persists through the decades following such a horrific event, doesn't come up. It's a non-issue. Often memoirs are about a specific period of time. Liberation comes from either the Americans and the Russians. And voila. Horror over. But life isn't that easy.

In this first volume, we meet Artie, an artist, and his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor who is grumbling his way through a second marriage to a fellow-survivor, Mala. (Artie's mother, Anja, committed suicide in the late 1960s.) Artie seeks out his father in this volume wanting to hear his story, his past. Seeking answers to questions not only about his father, but his mother as well. Questions about the Nazis, the war, the Holocaust, how these two survived despite the odds. We, as readers, follow two stories, the contemporary setting where a son is asking some hard questions of his father and getting inspired to write about them in graphic novel form, and the historical setting--1930s and 1940s--where we meet his parents and learn their stories and backgrounds.

His father isn't in the best of health, and their relationship is strained. The book addresses the question of if parents ever really understand their children and/or if children can ever truly understand their parents. Can stressful tensions--ongoing issues and conflicts--ever be resolved peacefully? The drama is just as much about healing as it is the Nazis. And I think that is one of the reasons it's so powerful, so resonating. These characters--represented as mice in the novel--feel authentic. They're flawed but lovable. Their stories matter. (By the way, the Nazis are cats. The Polish are pigs. The French are frogs.)

The story is continued in Maus II.



© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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6 comments:

Sandra 6:47 PM  

I read your review of this and Maus II. I have personally never been able to reconcile graphics, (which are really "comics", even according to Spiegel himself recently), as an appropriate medium for telling Holocaust stories. I know he's been doing it for twenty some years now and I don't know if anyone's taken offense or not. I did try two graphic books-very good quality ones-but they are not my cup of tea. I prefer plain text for everything, it's less distracting. But it's the subject I wonder about here rather than the medium itself. Reading your reviews, I begin to wonder if I'm not missing out on good storytelling with Spiegel's books. I may have to reconsider my original position on it.

Kailana 7:23 PM  

I really enjoyed this duology! I read it earlier this year. :)

Natasha @ Maw Books 8:18 PM  

Maus was one of the first graphic novels that I ever read. I think both volumes are definitely worth checking out.

Anna 9:18 PM  

Great review! I think I'm going to make the 2 Maus books my first graphic novels. I posted about your reviews here on War Through the Generations.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

brittanyrich 6:24 PM  

Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman is a great book. This book is an easy and fast read, but by no means are they simple. It gives you a great point of view with someone who actually went through this. The book shows you how this horrible event affects everyone’s life. Spiegelman wrote this book telling his fathers story, so you get an actual account of what happen in a Jews everyday life during this time. You should also read the second book Spiegelman wrote to Maus. So you can get the full story of his fathers life during and after the Holocaust.

brittanyrich 6:24 PM  

Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman is a great book. This book is an easy and fast read, but by no means are they simple. It gives you a great point of view with someone who actually went through this. The book shows you how this horrible event affects everyone’s life. Spiegelman wrote this book telling his fathers story, so you get an actual account of what happen in a Jews everyday life during this time. You should also read the second book Spiegelman wrote to Maus. So you can get the full story of his fathers life during and after the Holocaust.

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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