Friday, June 23, 2006

Booknote: Spiegelman's Maus, Parts I and II

Title: Maus: A Survivor's Tale, Part I: My Father Bleeds History; Maus: Survivor's Tale (1986), Part II: And Here My Troubles Began (1991)
Author: Art Spiegelman
Publication Information: New York: Pantheon Books
ISBN: Part I (0-394-54155-3), Part II (0-394-55655-0)
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, Memoir
Subgenre: Graphic Novels and Comics, Holocaust Literature

I have been wanting to read these for a while, so I finally borrowed them from my library and took the time to read them. The novels depict the story of Spiegelman's father, who was a Jew in Poland sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The author draws the characters as animals with the nazis as cats and the Jews as mice. The work won a Pulitzer Award, and they are very well regarded overall. Spiegelman creates the story by weaving his father's memories with the present day when he is interviewing his father. The result is a moving narrative created by a son who has some difficulties with his father yet regards him highly. It is not just about the ones who were sent to the camps but also about their families and the aftermath. The drawings are in ink.

I found the work extremely engaging. I was slowly reading the first volume, but as the pace picked up, I found myself picking up the second volume and staying up late to read it. It does have some very sad and gruesome moments, yet Spiegelman manages to make the work very accessible to readers. The visual element of the graphic novel brings the memoir to life and makes the characters more humane. I think that is the word I am aiming for. It can be an intense reading. I cannot recommend this set of novels highly enough. I think anyone doing work or reading in Holocaust Studies has to read this work as part of any readings list. For readers of the graphic novel genre, this is a must not only for the topic but because it is considered part of the canon (if there is such a thing for graphic novels). This is definitely one of the best reading experiences I have had so far this year.

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