Nov 28



I – My Father Bleeds History

II – And Here My Trouble Begin

by Art Spiegelman


Maus PictureFiction, Graphic Novel
Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize
First Published in 1980-1991 in RAW magazine
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Set: Nazi Poland and modern day New York, USA

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Book Synopsis:

“The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human.” – Adolf Hitler

Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and history itself. It’s form, the cartoon (Nazi’s are cats, the Jews are mice), succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of our any lingering sense of familiarity with the events described, approaching, as it does, the unspeakable through the diminutive. It is, as the New York Times Book Review has commented, “a remarkable feat of documentary detail and novelistic vividness…an unfolding literary event.”

Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: The first is Spiegelman’s father’s account of how he and his wife survived Hitler’s Europe, a harrowing tale filled with countless brushes with death, improbable escapes, and the terror of confinement and betrayal. The second is the author’s tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments and passing visits against a backdrop of history too large to pacify. At all levels, this is the ultimate survivor’s tale – and that too, of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.

Part I of Maus takes Spiegelman’s parents to the gates of Auschwitz and him to the edge of despair. Put aside all your preconceptions. These cats and mice are not Tom and Jerry, but something quite different. This is a new kind of literature.

bunnyWhy I love Maus:

Yes, this is a graphic novel, but don’t be fooled by its form. You simply cannot be snooty and turn your nose up at this particular comic strip. This cartoon is history. I have a fascination with stories about the Holocaust because I cant quite believe how it could have happened and that people can be so horrifically cruel. (I should state here that I of course believe it happened, I just can’t believe it happened.)

In Maus, the Jews and Nazi’s are anthropomorphized as mice and cats respectively, distancing the reader from reality making it seem more like a story, a fairy tale, than a biography. But very soon, once you become familiar with the characters, and as the story moves into darker areas, the cats and mice become powerfully human, menacing and vulnerable, dragging you headlong into the fear of the Nazi occupation.

I found Maus a simple yet sophisticated insight into the personal life story of a Holocaust survivor, and the shell-shock that remains with such survivors for the rest of their lives. You can’t help but have compassion for the grumpy old man Vladek Spiegelman becomes, because you realise what hell he’s been through.

There is also some humour in Maus, as you identify with the son, (and author) Art, in his dealings with his stubborn father. Also, people of other races are depicted by different animals – for example, the French are frogs, the Poles are pigs and the Americans are dogs. This may seem that Spiegelman is typecasting, but he is actually showing how ridiculous it is to classify a human being based on their ethnicity.

Maus took a total of thirteen years to complete and is studied in English literature courses as well as courses on Jewish culture. If you have older children, read it with them.

This book is accessible, intensely moving and important.

x Julie

Book Reviews

- Reading Like Rabbits

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  1. Tarnima Sabed says:

    Wow julie, we have such similar tastes! i love Maus too! love em graphic novles…

  2. Martin Yeoh says:

    Maus!!! really awesome book

  3. juliewee says:

    I know, I cant believe a comic made my cry!