Maus II

Spiegelman, Art. Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began. New York: Pantheon, 1992.

I think by the time I read Maus II I was conditioned to lose the conundrum I previously faced with Maus I. When I first read Maus I I struggled with the dilemma of an extremely serious storyline wrapped in a cartoon; the holocaust in pictures. With the reading of Maus II my mind could reconcile the conflict. The heavy topics return as Spiegelman’s father continues his story of survival. At this point he is a prisoner in the concentration camp at Auschwitz and surviving because of his ability to appeared skilled at whatever the gestapo or Nazis need, whether it be working with tin or fixing shoes. The most poignant element of Vladek’s story is that he never gave up on his wife. Being that she was so thin and frail, he feared the worst but he never lost some small hope that he would see her again. The struggle between father and son held the most emotional tension, despite Vladek’s ordeals. Evidence of Alzheimer’s disease complicates their relationship, as does the leaving of Vladek’s second wife, Mala.

Stunning quotes, “If you want to live it is good to be friendly” (p 62) and “I wish he and Mala could patch things up and make each other miserable again” (p 120).

Reason read: to finish the Maus series I started well over a month ago.

Author fact: Thanks to Wikipedia I learned that Spiegelman came up with the Garbage Pail Kids after the Cabbage Patch Kid craze. Interesting.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Graphic Novels” (p 103). Funny how I didn’t mention this earlier, but Spiegelman, Maus I and Maus II are not in the index of Book Lust. Somehow they were left out.

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).