Title: Maus, Vol I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History
Author: Art Spiegelman
Illustrator: Art Spiegelman
Release Date: November 1, 1991
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Medium: Graphic Novel
Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Letters Award (1992), Prix du Festival d’Angoulême for Alfred du meilleur album etranger (1988), Urhunden Prize for Foreign Album (1988), Max & Moritz Prize for Special Prize (1990), National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee (1986)
Finished Reading: September 20, 2014
About: “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. Its form, the cartoon, succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of 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.”
Ok, first of all, the “About” section pretty much lays out exactly what the book is about. I’m not going to summarize in my own words what it is. I will, however, tell you that when this book first came out a lot of people had a hard time with how the book should be classified. There was talk about whether or not the book is a work of fiction since the characters are animals. This is obviously not the case. This book is all non-fiction, but told through mice, cats, and pigs.
I have been wanting to read this book for a really long time and I was so stoked (beyond stoked) when this book was picked for book club. We read this book and Saga Vol 1.
The art is beautifully simplistic, which makes it easier for someone to learn about what really happened in Poland during the Holocaust. It’s much easy to take in the atrocities through non-detailed animals rather than by having something super detailed and gory. This is, by no means, a limitation that Spiegelman has as an artist. Within the story there is another comic that Spiegelman includes, which is more detailed and intricate. It was a conscious choice to characters as they are. Something I really enjoyed was the narration. We are learning about Vladek with Spiegelman. He’s sitting down and interviewing his father for details about his time over in Poland and the hardships he went through. This allows for super meta awesomeness to happen. (IE: “I gotta write this down before I forget”) If you know anything about me and my literary choices, you’ll know I love all things meta (as well as unreliable narrators, stream of consciousness…etc, but i digress).
This book was a great re-telling of the story, and there includes great drawings of cellars where Jews hid from Nazi soldiers. This was amazing. I’ve read other books dealing with WWII, but I’ve never imagined the hiding places quite as they were. This was exactly what I wanted from this book.
Side note: My knight in shining armor read this book with us, and he loved the jab about how Spiegelman could be as popular and well-known as Walt Disney. Of course that’s the only cartoonist that Vladek could thing of. An anti-Semitic cartoonist.
My rating and why: I gave this book four stars. I was a little displeased with the ending only in that it was open for the next one. While many things were concluded, there was a ton that was left open. This is definitely a good thing for getting readers interested in the second volume, but come on! As mentioned before in my reviews of previous trades and graphic novels, I have a hard time giving it a five stars just because the ending could change everything for me. It’s definitely a great book though and provokes great conversation.
Have you read this book? Does WWII interest you? Are you big into graphic novels and trades (Do you know the difference)? Let me know in the comments below. Like. Comment. Follow. New book review to come Monday.
Until next time my fellow bibliophiles!