28 May 2013

REVIEW: Maus by Art Spiegleman

Title: Maus I: My Father Bleeds History / Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began
Author: Art Spiegleman
Publication Date: November 1st 1991 (first published 1986)/ October 19th 1993 (first published 1991)
Publisher: Pantheon

Format: Paperback
Pages: 160/136
Rating: 5/5
Blurb: Acclaimed as a quiet triumph and a brutally moving work of art, the first volume of Art Spiegleman's Maus introduced readers to Vladek Spiegleman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist trying to come to terms with his father, his father's terrifying story, and History itself. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of any lingering sense of familiarity with the events described, approaching, as it does, the unspeakable through the diminutive.

This second volume, subtitled And Here My Troubles Began, moves us from the barracks of Auschwitz to the bungalows of the Catskills. Genuinely tragic and comic by turns, it attains a complexity of theme and a precision of thought new to comics and rare in any medium. Maus ties together two powerful stories: Vladek's harrowing tale of survival against all odds, delineating the paradox of daily life in the death camps, and the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. At every level this is the ultimate survivor's tale - and that too of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.
Review: Before I actually start this review I’d like to clarify one thing- I read Maus in two separate volumes, though there is a complete ‘collection’ also available, hence the two publication dates and etc.

Before starting Maus, I’d never read a graphic novel or even a comic ever, and I never really planned on doing either. I know it might seem a bit pre-judgmental, but I honestly never thought that it would be something that I would enjoy. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong. This being said, if I’d read a different graphic novel for the first time I might not have been so enthusiastic. World War Two is my thing you see, my ultimate go-to genre/era in books and movies and so where would be a better place to start my graphic novel journey than with one about WWII.

From the first time I’d heard of this book, the premise interested me. A graphic novel about the Holocaust where the Jewish people are represented by mice and the Nazi’s by cats- it sounds almost ridiculous, and so I knew I had to read it. It wasn’t what I expected though. I didn’t expect such as direct relation to WWII as having Art Spiegleman’s father tell his own personal story. It was so much more haunting this way, especially as it was clear to see the pain that having these memories dragged back to the surface caused.  

The cartoons themselves were also different to what I expected. I thought there would be some colour in there- admittedly I expected mainly reds and blues, but the entire thing is actually in black and white- another aspect which makes this even more meaningful. It was amazing how detailed everything was.

Honestly, I do not regret one little bit of my decision to pick up these graphic novels and give them ago. I don’t think I’ve read anything this powerful in a little while and I regret not picking them up sooner.