Review: Maus (*****)
I finally made the smart decision to get a library subscription. By now I have learned I have no self-control, especially around books. So I figured it would be better to take 9 books out of the library at once then spend 50 euros on books because I thought I could handle a visit to a bookstore.
The first on the giant pile of books I borrowed was ‘The Complete Maus’, a graphic novel written by Art Spiegelman about his father’s life during World War II. It has been on my ‘to-read’ list for forever and I was really happy the library in Rotterdam had it. The book I borrowed is the ‘complete’ edition, which has both parts (1+2) bundled together. Part 1 was called: ‘Maus: A Survivor’s Tale’, Part 2 was published as: ‘Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began’
‘Maus’ tells the story of Art, a young cartoonist/artist whose father emigrated to the United States from Polen after World War II. He wants to write a book about his father’s life during the Holocaust and so he starts to interview him. The book shows both the current day, where Art tries to talk to his father and struggles with his father’s character and the images and stories his father tells of his time during the war. The story is told using animals instead of people, which is where the name ‘Maus’ comes from. All the Jews are pictured as mice, the Polish people as pigs, the Germans as cats, French as frogs and Americans as dogs. As the story progresses Art struggles more and more with the way his father treats his wife and himself. At the start of book 2, he is also shown struggling with the success of the first book. Sitting at his writing desk which stands on top of a pile of starved, dead mice bodies. In the end, he finishes the story of his father with his arrival in America.
The book was moving and well balanced. By telling both the story of his father during the Holocaust and of his father as he is now, you realize that going through something horrible does not excuse bad behavior. In book two the psychologist of Art tells him that the people who survived were not the ‘best’ people, nor were the people who died the ‘bad’ people. Those who survived or those who died were random, completely random. This book really hammers that home. The pointlessness of prosecuting these people and the subsequent running and hiding of Arts mother and father is really well shown in this graphic medium. It is a book that will haunt me forever.
So if you want to feel depressed, but also impressed, by a piece of literary art definitely pick up ‘Maus’. Books like this make me want to read more graphic novels and I am sure it will do the same for you.