Hi, friends. Today’s book showing revolves around a graphic novel that relays Holocaust survivor experiences. This post comes about one week after Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27, the day Auschwitz was liberated in 1945). Oddly enough, the only graphic novels I’ve read so far are this one and Palestine by Joe Sacco, which is ironic since the Jews are portrayed as victims in one and oppressors in the other. Without further ado, here’s my hardcover edition of both books, Maus I and Maus II, together.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
Maus was drawn and written by Art Spiegelman, whose father and mother survived the Holocaust (though we learn quickly that his mother later committed suicide). He represents Jews with mice, Germans with cats, Polish with pigs, Americans with dogs, etc. The two volumes relay Vladek Spiegelman’s (Art’s father’s) life from the late 1930’s to the mid 1940’s, primarily in Poland. The details are obviously harrowing, but Spiegelman’s story moves between past (the actual story) and present (Art visiting his dad, his dad telling part of the story as he records it, current problems), so the novel reads like a sober reflection with modern context rather than an unrelenting horror story. Art doesn’t pull any disingenuous punches with honestly portraying the aftermath of survival on his family dynamic; for instance, he can only deal with Vladek in doses because his dad is both super intense and super cheap, and he carries guilt and resentment about his mother’s suicide. This novel is fast and easy to read yet historically informative, raw, and unforgettable.
Additional Details & Reception
The novel was originally published as a serial in Raw from 1980 to 1991. Pantheon Books published the first six chapters as a work in 1986 and the last five in 1991. They combined all the chapters in this 1996 publication. Spiegelman initially resented the categorization of “graphic novel” versus a title that indicates non-fiction, but he grew to embrace it. Reception to the work varied greatly. Many hailed the novel as groundbreaking, but some thought the novel was dehumanizing. One can argue that portraying victims as non-humans is a bad approach in any circumstance, but I find the analogy poignant because cats don’t kill mice quickly; they play with them first. As circumstances escalated for Jews during WWII, the horrific processes many went through before being murdered (like being stuffed in a train with dead people for a week) felt like an arbitrary, sick game. Maus was the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Spiegelman supplemented his father’s story with accounts from others and research.
The cover is durable, and the pages are gloriously thick. This hardcover edition is simply stunning (hence all the pictures). The novel contains 296 pages.
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any graphic novel suggestions.