Saturday, January 10, 2009

Maus: A Survivor's Tale - Volume 2 - And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman

It is the story of Vladek Speigelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler''s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father''s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity. Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek''s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author''s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century''s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.
The above blurb is actually from the Complete Maus. I still couldn't find a decent description online, so this covers both book one and book two.

So, this is the second part of the story of Art's fathers' time in Nazi-occupied Germany. I finished the first part and went right into the second because I wanted to know how everything played out. Art's father had a lot of close calls, but he was alive to tell the story, and we know that Art's mother committed suicide in 1968, but I still wanted to know what went on. There were moments where my mind would wander and I would forget that they both had to have lived, but it didn't mean that the story was not captivating know the outcome. I know that my grandfather was in World War Two. When he came home, he never spoke of the war again. A few years before he died, though, I decided to break the silence and see if he would tell me just a few things about his experiences. That was the one and only time my father spoke about what he went through during World War Two, and I wish I had been older so that I would have thought to bring along a tape recorder. I wish I had as detailed an account as Art did.

A few people have been mentioning how they were not sure about this book because it was a graphic novel. So, I think I will give my opinion on that. I don't read a lot of graphic novels. I find that they are too short and I read them way too fast, so I try to stick to novels. I have read a few comics here and there over the years, but I largely stay clear of them unless they are not something I have to pay for. Maus is a book I have been hearing a lot about, though, so when I had gift cards for Christmas I decided to buy them and see what all the hype was about. It was hard to imagine what I was going to think about a book that portrays Jews as mice and Nazis as cats, but I read the two books, and it never really bothered me. Actually I was talking about them afterwards and it just made sense to me. It didn't dull the reality of what went on. I still felt terrible about what happened.... Maybe even moreso. For example, I watched a movie last night where countless humans died, and it was just a movie, but when I thought a wolf had been killed I felt terrible. I know, sounds terrible, but maybe by making the characters in this book animals instead of humans, he actually made a stronger point than if they had been human characters...

Whatever the idea, this was a good book. I am glad that I finally took the chance to read it. I might never become the biggest graphic novel reader on the planet, but there are some like these that really should be read. They cover important aspects of history, and that is something that we should never forget.


  1. I know, sounds terrible, but maybe by making the characters in this book animals instead of humans, he actually made a stronger point than if they had been human characters...

    I think maybe we've gotten used to seeing humans in such situations, so we've become more steeled against it. Sad, though. Look at the reactions footage from the Vietnam war caused. Then look at the reactions we give to similar news/footage today. *trying to dredge up examples from her last history course and failing*

    If that assumption is true, then by drawing animal characters Spiegelman actually... *lacks words she wants, it being 2am* ...reawakens our ability to be shocked by the suffering by showing it in a way we're not used to seeing it.

    If that makes any sense at all. ^-^;

  2. yeah, you sort of said what I was trying to say... I don't know if either of us were successful. lol

  3. Well, we're both understanding it, so that's got to mean something about what we both said, doesn't it?

    Maybe I'll just buy these (sometime) and leave them lying around for when I feel up to them... That way at least I won't forget I mean to.