Maus II  

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cover of "Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And...Cover via Amazon

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

1992, by Art Spiegelman, from the library

You should know

Ever since I read the first volume of Maus, I’ve wanted to read the sequel – and more than one person has recommended I do so.


Speigelman continues to tell – and draw – the story of his Holocaust-survivor father, Vladek. The older man is ornery and not in the best of health; in the process of gathering the story, Spiegelman (or at least the “Artie” character based on the author) must balance his father’s needs and wants, his stepmother’s troubles and concerns, and the needs of his own young family.
This half of the story opens when Artie and his wife (a French convert to Judaism who remarks on her own anthropomorphization) are called away from their vacation to visit Vladek, who just had a heart attack – or so the younger Spiegelmans are told. In fact, Artie’s stepmother Mala has left Vladek – and here troubles of a less life-threatening sort being.
The beginning of the flashbacks parallels this – Vladek is separated from his first wife, Anja, Artie’s mother, when they arrive at Auschwitz. Vladek keeps himself going by devising ways to keep in touch with Anja, which involves making trades with a Polish kapo – English lessons for supplies and help. In the present, Vladek takes frugality to extremes, returning used food as “damaged,” and making nasty comments about his African-American neighbors. Artie feels like nothing he does is ever good enough, that amazing success in the contemporary world is nothing compared to Vladek just surviving as long as he has, and Vladek doesn’t do much to contradict those feelings.
The artwork is consistent with that of the first volume; the characters, drawn as animals (Jews are portrayed as mice, Poles pigs, Germans cats, Americans dogs, and French frogs), are just alien enough to make the horror bearable to the reader. Far more familiar is Artie’s frustration – he just doesn’t know what to do with his father, whose phenomenal survival skills translate to something a bit more obnoxious in late-20th-century America. The past and present converge again when the book ends – Vladek survives the camps, and Artie survives the telling, both scarred but strong.


Read it
But only once you’ve read the first part. Better yet, if you haven’t read either volume, get your hands on the boxed set, and read both as one whole work.

The rest of the Internet

The Wikipedia entry discusses the animal characters at length.
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