The Complete Maus
by Art Spiegelman
Graphic novels are quite pricey and as much as I want to have the luxury of collecting a shelf full of them, I try to pick a few titles to add to my collection (huhu, the woe of a lowly reader). Fortunately, a good friend was able to buy me some books during her trip so I was able to add some to my very little graphic novel shelf.
Maus is a narrative about the author’s interviews with his father, Vladek Spiegelman, as he recounts his past experiences as a Jew living in Poland during the 1930s and how the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust affected him, his family and his business.
Honestly, I have never thought how a graphic novel could be so moving and haunting at the same time. I was never a fan of nonfiction works because I usually find it dragging but reading it in a form of a graphic novel changed my perception. I found it interesting to read how Vladek was able to pull through a lot of challenges during the Holocaust. Sometimes I wonder if the things he did to survive really did happen because it was much like how you’d expect from a movie. It’s something that makes you hold your breath and wonder if the hero will triumph. I’m glad he did. I feel grateful that Vladek’s resourcefulness helped him in dead-end situations but also sad because most of his relatives did not make it.
One of the things that I liked about the novel was how Art, the author, incorporated the present Vladek from the past. The timelines of the novel jumped from present to past, whenever Vladek recounts his life during their interviews. It is also during the present setting where you can see how Vladek was affected by his experiences. He has some quirks that ticks Art off and which makes him quite a difficult man to live with (as shown with his relationship with Mala). Sometimes, the more I learn about Vladek’s past, makes me understand why he acts the way he does. It’s a bit annoying but it goes to show that most of our elders (grandparents) has been through so much more than we have. Experiencing the Holocaust (and the wars) is no joke and surviving these will always take its toll on a person.
Throughout the novel, people were represented as different animals. Jews were depicted as mice, and Germans/Poles as pigs/cats (I’m not very sure which was which). This is to show the divide between nationalities and to give emphasis on racism. I think the portrayal of humans as animals was an effective presentation. I could not imagine the story unfolding with people in it. It will be too graphic and haunting, or too heavy read if the visuals portrayed realistic images.
This is the first nonfiction graphic novel based on the Holocaust that I have read. I know there are tons of novels (fiction and nonfiction) out there that may be better and that are waiting to be read but I do not regret buying this. It’s worth the money.