Maus: A Survivor's Tale  

Thursday, June 01, 2006

(left to right) Dan Clowes, Art Spiegelman (we...Image via Wikipedia

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

By Art Spiegelman, 1986
Graphic novel, from the library

You should know

As I said in my last entry, I’m not a big comic book fan. However, I had been hoping to expand my horizons by reading both more ground-breaking graphic novels and more Pulitzer winners. I saw this on the shelf at my local library, and had to check it out.


Well, it made me want to read Volume II. We learn about Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, and his life before Auschwitz. We learn about the relationship between Art and Vladek, Vladek and Anja (Art’s deceased mother), and between Vladek and Mala, Vladek’s second wife. But the story, both the present-time segments and the flashback segments, seems more like a giant setup for the real story.

Speigelman’s art is moving and telling – it’s fairly well-known that Jews are portrayed as mice and Nazis as cats (hence the title). In addition, Poles are pigs and Americans are dogs. I haven’t seen any notes on the thought process behind these anthropomorphizations, though.

Personally, I like how Spiegelman draws a weeping mouse. The inverted triangle with the gaping mouth says a lot with a very simple picture.

It’s a depressing story, obviously, chock full of violence, profanity to a lesser degree, and just a smidge of sex. It also talks about topics like depression and suicide. In other words, it’s not for kids – don’t let the comic book packaging fool you.


A must-read
The Diary of Anne Frank
, Night by Elie Weisel, Schindler’s List -- the whole point is that we’re supposed to remember, especially as those who do are dying off. Now, this is not a case of “How can you pan a holocaust book?!” While I enjoyed Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars and Judy Blume’s Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, and would recommend them to kids, I don’t rank them with the above works. Maus I do.

The rest of the Internet

NPR did a story on Spiegelman and Maus.
The Village Voice has a few thoughts about Spiegelman.
Bil the Man at Rambling Thoughts of the Prof Bil the Man reviews the book.
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