Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.
In terms of overall enjoyment, it’s not the most emotionally crippling holocaust narrative out there, but it does a wonderful job of framing the holocaust in an alternative form while making it an incredibly realistic feeling story.
As a generalization, this is a holocaust story told through a graphic novel directed towards an adult audience. So, yes, my expectations were pretty low going into the first book. I was happily surprised. The story is narrated by Art Speigleman as a character in the story who has his elderly father tell him his Auschwitz survival story in order for “Artie” to write this graphic novel. Get it? It’s super self-reflexive which makes it seem so real! Spiegleman seems to go above and beyond to portray this particular holocaust story in it’s true light. He shows how the entire story is a series of recollected events, only ONE side of the story, and shows us examples of how his father can stretch the truth sometimes. It’s a big warning saying “this is his story, but take the details with a big grain of salt”. This is why it’s so REAL. And this is why it’s so intriguing. The story jumps from the present to the recollected story to Art’s father going off on random tangents. You really feel the tension and frustration between father and son, yet the underlying love.
I can see why Art Spiegelman was worried about his readers thinking that he’s speaking ill of the dead (his father is dead by the time the book is published), but I can see that he is just telling things like they were and not romanticizing it – which I love and commend.
As I said, overall, I liked the graphic novels well enough. I wasn’t dying to read on nor was I dying to put it down. I have read lots of more heart-wrenching and dramatic novels which feed off of readers’ emotions, and this is not one of those stories. It was more so just an interesting and alternative way of speaking about the holocaust.
Not to mentions the drawings were just ‘meh’. It took me a while to get used to the drawing style – black and white, rough, sometimes hard to tell characters apart…. but I ended up being alright with it. I just see the rough-style drawings as a reflection of the harshness of the holocaust. In that sense, the visuals are perfect, but in terms of overall enjoyment, they weren’t super intriguing to look at.
Overall 3/5 stars. I had to take away two stars based on my overall enjoyment and the visuals, but I’m keeping 3 stars again based on my overall enjoyment and the self-reflexive and symbolism found in the narrative.
If your interested in holocaust literature, check this out! It’s a great alternative way to look at the past, not to mention a huge time commitment – it’s just two graphic novels.