Wednesday, August 27, 2008

'Maus I & II'

by Art Spiegelman
Non-Fiction/Biography/Auto-biography/(or as Spiegelman calls it "realistic fiction"), 1973-1991
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize Special Letters Award, 1992
Pantheon, softcover box set, 280 p.
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.
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, improbably 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 chidren who somehow survive even the survivors.
There have been several wonderful reviews of this lately (see below) that I'm tempted to just have you read those, if you haven't already. But what an incredible way to tell a story about the Holocaust! Art Spiegelman’s drawings are powerful and really make the words and the horror of what his father and all the other Jews experienced all the more vivid. Much has been said about his use of animals to depict different groups (the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, the Americans as dogs, etc.) and I think this works really effectively to make it not just the story of Vladek and Anya Spiegelman but all Jews and everyone who was affected by what happened.

One of my favourite parts of the story though was how Art related the process of getting the story from his father alongside the story itself. It was this look at their relationship that made it extremely personal, and touching.
Partly because of the visual style, and also Vladek’s resourcefulness, especially after he found himself in Auschwitz, I also couldn’t help but think of the film, Life is Beautiful, while I was reading this. Such a beautiful, moving film!
Thanks to the nudge from a couple of challenges, I'm so glad to have finally read this!

My Rating: 4.5/5
(#35 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously, Graphic Novels Challenge, Non-Fiction Five Challenge, Book Awards Challenge, Herding Cats Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
things mean a lot
Rhinoa's Ramblings
Bold. Blue. Adventure.
an adventure in reading
A Life In Books
Maw Books Blog
Thoughts of Joy - Maus I, Maus II
1morechapter.com - Maus I, Maus II
A Fondness for Reading - Maus I
Reminder: If you've read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.
(image googled then taken from this site)

12 comments:

  1. Wasn't this amazing? I thought the novels were very well done too.

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  2. I agree, this was such an incredible book(s).

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  3. I love Life is Beautiful so much. And I completely agree with you about the process of hearing the story from Vladek. It was probably my favourite part.

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  4. This has been on my mental TBR list for many years. I think Andi was the first to bring it to my attention. Thanks for the wonderful review and the huge nudge to read it.

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  5. Wendy- It was definitely an amazing read! One that will stay with me for a long time I think.

    Joy- Everyone should read these! :)

    Nymeth- Life is Beautiful is really such a beautiful film. I think I need to watch it again sometime soon.

    Les- Oh, you should definitely read it! :)

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  6. Good review! This looks good and I like the artwork. I'll have to pick this up.

    ~ Popin

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  7. I really loved this book and have recommended it to people at the library several times as a 'if you don't think you'd like a graphic novel, read this and think again' type situation. I've managed to turn a few people onto the genre that way! Here's my blog post about the Maus books although it's mixed in with a few others: http://www.alifeinbooks.com/?p=68

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  8. Popin- I really enjoyed the artwork, and the story. I'd definitely recommend it. :)

    Lesley- I think the fact that it was written as a graphic novel just made it all the more powerful. I haven't read many graphic novels but ones like this are converting me! :)

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  9. I really enjoyed this too and have just ordered a copy for my mums birthday at the end of September. It will be her first graphic novel if she reads it and I hope she enjoys it. I know what you mean about the relationship between Art and his dad. Very powerful reading.

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  10. Rhinoa- I hope your mum enjoys it, but I'm sure she will. I think it's a great intro to graphic novels.

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  11. Thanks for linking my review! I'm glad you liked this one too. It is definitely a good read, if maybe not a fun read. It is hard to put down, even though it is so hard to read.

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  12. Kim- You're welcome. :)
    It's not a happy topic, that's for sure, but it's so well done.

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