So, as regular readers of the blog may have noticed, I’ve recently started reading graphic novels as well as novels. As much as I love superheroes (Batman being my favourite, obviously), I don’t think I’ll ever read Spiderman or the likes. However, ‘Maus’ is not what non-comic book readers may expect from a graphic novel.
Like ‘Persepolis’, ‘Maus’ is a true story. It recounts artist and author Art Spiegelman’s family’s experience of the Holocaust. Not only does it deal with Art’s father Vladek’s memories but Spiegelman deftly weaves in his own narrative – that of his own relationship with his father and how the shadow of the Holocaust continues to effect not only the survivors but their relatives.
With such a horrific incident, it would be easy for Art Spiegelman to cast his father as a saint or a hero however he shies away from sanctifying Vladek and paints him as a cantankerous, moody penny-pincher who manages to argue with everyone he comes into contact with. This distinct lack of sugar-coating makes me feel an affinity not only to Art but to Vladek too – these guys are human and this made me realise that any one of us (as an individual or group) could potentially end up in a situation similar to the one Vladek found himself in. Let’s face it: sadly there are still pogroms and massacres going on around the world today.
Intelligently, Art doesn’t try to psycho-analyse his father’s idiosyncracies, simply allowing the reader to draw their own conclusion. Although this is a serious subject, Spiegelman manages to cast his father in a favourable light – the reader is almost encouraged to giggle at Vladek’s lack of tact.
The part of this book I found interesting is how children of survivors continue to be affected – whether it’s by living in the shadow of a sibling killed in the war or because of their parents’ suffering of what would now be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s not something I’ve ever considered up until now.
This wonderfully illustrated book provides plenty of information as well as being a really emotional read. A deserved winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Order ‘The Complete MAUS’ here: http://amzn.to/OJZhw9