Friday, 28 December 2012

Maus, Vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History (3/5) and Maus, Vol 2: A Survivor's Tale, Vol. 2: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman (3.5/5)

GoodReads says: A story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father's story and history itself.

I say: That GoodReads synopsis is very short but straight to the point. It’s a graphic novel in two parts about Vladek Spiegelman retelling his experiences in World War II and in Auschwitz. I’m not even going to attempt at retelling any of it myself, and will only say that it’s a very tragic, but somehow also uplifting, story. Vladek is a whiny old man who is obsessed with saving everything and spending as little as possible, and once you realise what he’s been through it all becomes understandable. My favourite parts where the ones where he was whining about how his new wife was trying to steal money from him, and all the things he did to make sure he didn’t spend any money – like stealing matches from a nearby hotel.

It was tragi-comical.

Other than that I can’t really say that I got much out of the story; mostly because I’ve read and seen so much about World War II in my life that at this point it has to be really exceptional for me to really like it.

I have become jaded – which is sad – but such is life.

Supposedly it’s somehow avant-garde that all races and nationalities are different animals; Jews are rats mice, Germans cats, Poles pigs, Americans dogs, and so on, but it just seemed to me like an easy way to differentiate people. Other than that, it’s all black and white, and since I rarely read, or very much care for, graphic novels it left me a bit meh. Perhaps if I had read this when I was younger it would have been more interesting (I had a period when I was 13 in which I only read literature about World War II and especially about/written by concentration camp survivors). Considering where I am now in life, I was more interested in the relationship between father and son than father and war.

So yeah, 3/5 for the first part and 3.5/5 for the second, but by all means, do read this. I’m sure that I would have liked everything better if it was presented as a prose novel.


  1. See, I think Maus *is* really exceptional, and not because of the animal thing (I totally agree that I don't really find it avant garde, just a way of telling who's who) but just because... It's a graphic novel about the Holocaust! And it sounds like that should be really wrong, but actually it's amazing! And also I really like allll the stuff in the present, and how he doesn't, like, just let everything his dad does slide because he's a Holocaust survivor and all.

    Yeah, I'm going to stop talking about Maus now. To be fair, I haven't really read very much about WWII or the Holocaust, so I'm still a bit like 'ohmigosh!' about it all. But especially this.

    1. For me, the fact that it's a graphic novel took away from the horrors of it all. It's like watching cartoon violence is easier than "human" violence. For me, that was a minus. To be noted is that I don't particularly like graphic novels, so I was sort of setting myself up for failure.

  2. I really liked Maus and haven't read that much literature about WWII and concentration camp survivors and what not, although I am really interested in books like that...just haven't got around to reading any. Maus had a lot of hype and it was a very enjoyable read for me. I initially thought it would literally be cats and mice as a way of representing Jews and Germans and was surprised that they were drawn as people, just animals instead of human bodies. But I think that approach was interesting because it kind of made the book a little whimsical and light when talking about a subject that some might find depressing or difficult to read. Still, it packed a punch for me. What other books can you recommend as you're well read in similar literature? The only one that comes to mind is Night by Elie Wiesel and that is on my TBR. What else though?

    1. I agree about the whimsy of it, but for me that took away a little of the seriousness of the matter. It's a great way to tell children about the Holocaust without showing them real footage of the event.

      I've been meaning to read Night for a long time, but I have to be a certain mood to be able to deal with such horrors, so I'm still waiting for that. I'll have to get back to you regarding the list as it was over 17 years ago I read them (I'm old) and most of them were Swedish translations (I think). We had a survivor come to class and talk about his experiences and I still remember it all so clearly; just bawling my eyes out and not understanding evil. That's how I got obsessed with the Holocaust. Off the top of my head is, of course, The Diary of Anne Frank - which I thought was ok. Quite recently (a few years back) I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which I thought was utterly unbelievable and quite insulting the intelligence of the reader. There was one that I see now was translated into English in 2007, A Teenager in Hitler's Death Camps by Benny Grünfeld (he's the one that visited our school). But I'll get back to you with more titles.