Book Reviews, Books, Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction

REVIEW: Maus – My Father Bleeds History

I picked this book on a friend’s recommendation and I must say, while reading it, I could not put it down. Maus is a two part series graphic novel written by American cartoonist and contributing artist for The New YorkerArt Spiegelman. It’s also a memoir as well as an autobiographical work.

After reading it, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this graphic novel. There is a uniqueness to the concept and the how it is illustrated with story telling. Art Spiegelman has done a great job with story telling, I must say. The illustration or the graphical part is an excellent addition to decipher the incidents or certain scenarios the author wants the reader to focus on.

Most of the volume describes Spiegelman family’s life leading to the Holocaust. Hearing the story told to the author through his father, who is dealing with the hardships of aging, and the characters beyond their experience as victims. I haven’t read much of the Holocaust accounts that have verily focused on an individual beyond the scope of Holocaust. The uniqueness starts when a reader finds about the representation of different communities: Nazis as cats, Jews as mice, Polish as pigs and American as dogs. It’s a genius idea and that’s what I like about graphic novels. One can represent one thing through a his art such that to make deep impression on the reader’s mind. I was fascinated by this genius idea of representing entities in the form not their own. One example is Maus, the other being Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series. The author has done justice with portrayal of different races by his art work and uses it cleverly as an influential medium to highlight the impacts of brutality and the horrors of the war, more verily on the individual life of Vladek Speigelman.

The graphics are all in black and white and so it is ready-to-read in an ereader whose display uses E Ink such as Amazon Kindle. 

While reading ‘Maus’ the reader also learns about Art Spiegelman’s painful relationship with his parents, especially his father and his attempts at understanding what his parents went through during the days of horror. Glimpses of the author’s private life during the creation of this book and the impact of his mother’s suicide on the author are also brilliantly entwined with the story. The story had a deep impact on me since on some points it touched both my mind and my soul and I think it will have a similar type of effect on you if you plan to read it. The plot and the illustrated work of Spiegelman work better together.

I am looking forward to read the next volume and will be back with its review.

Blurb from Goodreads

Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and History itself. Its form, the cartoon, 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. 

Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: the first is Spiegelman’s father’s account of how he and his wife survived Hitler’s Europe, a harrowing tale filled with countless brushes with death, improbable escapes, and the terror of confinement and betrayal. The second is the author’s tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments and passing visits against a backdrop of history too large to pacify. At all levels, this is the ultimate survivor’s tale – and that, too, of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.

Part I of Maus takes Spiegelman’s parents to the gates of Auschwitz and him to the edge of despair. Put aside all your preconceptions. These cats and mice are not Tom and Jerry, but something quite different. This is a new kind of literature.

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