Book Review: Maus I and II: A Survivor's Tale

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I picked up the first book of Art Spiegelman's graphic novel set "Maus" not knowing what to expect. I knew it was about the Holocaust and that it used animals instead of people to tell the story. That was the extent of my knowledge. I couldn't put the book down. As soon as I finished it I picked up the second and final book and dove in. Here's my thoughts on both.

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began

by Art Spiegelman

Art wrote and drew this two-part graphic novel based on his own father's (Vladek) experiences during World War II. It's also a revealing look at Art himself and his relationship with his difficult dad. Maus feels so honest. It's written not about a perfect man, but about a regular man, who fights with his wife and has a tortured relationship with his grown son. He is a flawed man who survived the holocaust and this is his story.

The book is brilliantly real. The fact that the story is told as a graphic novel allows the reader to detach just enough to get through the gruesome subject matter. The Jews are mice, the Germans are cats and the Polish people are pigs. The first book deals with Vladek's life before with his wife Anya. Their relationship resonated with me long after the final pages. The second book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, focuses on Vladek's time in Auschwitz and the war's resolution.

Reading it reminded me of an interview I did with a holocaust survivor when I worked at a daily newspaper. I remember being shocked by how angry he was. In my naïveté I assumed he would feel only gratitude for the fact that he survived, but there are some wounds that you can never truly forgive.

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