Author: Art Spiegelman
Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK), 2003
ISBN 13: 978-0141014081
Review by LIGHTLIT
Once I opened Maus by Art Spiegelman I could not close it–I finished the whole edition. I read the complete Maus, the compilation of both Spiegelman’s books. This book was the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer prize and it rightly deserves its place among the greats.
The story evolves 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 horrors they endured under the persecution of the Nazis. It is a graphic novel in which 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 in being portrayed as pigs. They come across just as cruel as the Nazis 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 and also the complicated relationship that exists between Vladek and his son Art. Art is trying to piece together the story of his father’s 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 as well as the troubles he encountered along 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 both embroiled in petty fights–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. Spiegelman’s 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. Yet, a strong bond existed between the two.
This book is a must read for everyone. A friend commented to me, 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 about 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. Maus is a moving and brilliant piece of writing.
About the Author:
Art Spiegelman (born Itzhak Avraham ben Zeev on February 15, 1948) is an American cartoonist, editor and comics advocate based in New York City, best known for his graphic novel Maus (1991). His work as coeditor on the comics magazines Arcade and Raw has been influential, and he spent a decade as contributing artist for The New Yorker starting in 1992, where he made several high-profile and sometimes controversial covers. He is married to artist, designer, and editor Françoise Mouly.
Text © 2014 LIGHTLIT
Re-print © 2014 The Black Lion Journal
Re-printed with permission.
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