Maus: a Survivor’s Tale

Spiegelman, Art: Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale. My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon Books, 1973.

Maus I is such a curious conundrum. On the one hand, you are mostly looking at pictures. The very idea of a “comic book” is something out of childhood and inherently considered “light reading.” Definitely not something to be taken seriously. On the other hand, you have Spiegelman’s story itself: a son interviewing his father to get the perspective of a Polish Jew who survived the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. Fear, starvation, distrust, torture, suicide, execution, genocide. All pretty heavy subject matter and without a doubt, difficult to read in any context. Even in his characterization Spiegelman plays with our perceptions. He uses enemies in the natural world to drive home the story; using cats for the Germans and mice for the Jews; pigs for the police.
Here’s the underlying truth, the war never leaves Spiegelman’s father. Even though he survived the war, survived the concentration camps, survived to tell his tale, he lives in the shadow of memory. He worries constantly about money; is distrustful of his own family’s intentions (trying to steal from him). Betrayals of the past run deep and dictate how he trusts others.

Reason read: Pearl Harbor anniversary is Dec 7th (Remembrance Day). Confessional: I started this in November in honor of Veterans’ Day.

Stop and think line, “He survived me my life that time” (p 80). Even though we would normally say, “he saved my life” I think this phrasing, saying the word “survived” carries more weight.

Author fact: Check out the author info in Maus I. There is a lot going on in the illustration.

Book trivia: My favorite part was the comic within the graphic novel. The styles were so vastly different. The importance of the comic was clearly illustrated.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Graphic Novels” (p 103).

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