Skip to content

Maus

by on December 28, 2011

Overview

Maus is a graphic novel originally released in two parts, the first in 1986 and the second in 1991. It is centered around its creator Art Spiegelman, and his relationship with his father Vladek. Vladek was a Polish Jew living in Sosnowiec when World War 2. Like so many others, he is rounded up and relocated to a ghetto. After the ghetto is vacated, Vladek and his wife Anja hide from the SS squads on constant lookout. The ever-present threat of discovery, the search for food, the hunt for loved ones are what occupy their waking thoughts, all told by Vladek to Art in between stories of the modern life in New York City. What makes Maus stand out as something entirely different, is that the Jews are all drawn as mice, while the German soldiers and SS are drawn as cats.

My thoughts

I had heard of Maus many years ago, and knew of its importance as a graphic novel, and even  as important literature. I decided to get it for myself while purchasing gifts for loved ones before christmas, and read through both volumes while still on bed on the morning/afternoon of Christmas Eve. This was the perfect book, read at the perfect time for me. Christmas is the time for quiet reflection, for being thankful about one’s lot in life. Reading about such a horrific tale, about the hardship and suffering of an entire people puts one’s petty complaints in perspective. I became a truly thankful person, if only for one day.

Stories about the Holocaust are nothing new for me. I’ve seen quite a few films on the subject, e.g. Schindler’s List, The Pianist, Night and Fog, and many others. However by making all the people involved cute and cuddly animals, Maus brought something new to the table. It more clearly depicted the utter insanity of the Holocaust. I was amused at first at the portrayal of the persecuted Jews as mice and the German soldiers as cats. That amusement quickly vanished as I realized the gravity of the situation being described on the pages before me. The use of the graphic novel as a medium was also ingenious; if it had merely been a novel, it had disappeared in the sea of novels about Holocaust survivors and their families.

The side story, telling of Art and Vladek’s relationship much later, while Art is writing the book, reveals another important part in the story; how the survivors dealt with having got out. Vladek was a deeply tortured man after the war, and even more so after his wife eventually committed suicide. The imprint the Nazis left on his soul was no less visible than the one they left on his forearm. He had been branded for life. This impacted his relationship with everyone around him, especially his son who eventually told his story.

This has been an incredibly difficult post for me to write, as no words can accurately sum up my feelings regarding this story. Words don’t even come close, which is why it is so incredibly touching and harrowing to see such a difficult story played out in pictures. This is a story every person should read, not just because of literary value, but also because it teaches the most important lesson of all. It tells us just how precious each life is. No matter if we’re Christian or Jew, black or white, we all deserve a chance to make our own way in life, and to discover happiness on our own terms. If people seek to stop that pursuit, then they in turn should be stopped. The people who endorse or actively participate in oppression or bringing misery to the world have no place in it.

I leave you with this haunting page from Maus. Seeing the anguish and pain on the innocent creatures portrayed there brought a tear to my eye, and while I don’t wish such emotions on you, I would that you think about why they arise, and be thankful for the happiness we have. Merry christmas.

Advertisements

From → Books

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: