Thursday, July 22, 2010

Maus : a survivor's tale by Art Spiegelman

It was only recently that I noticed there was a section for graphic novels at my local library. I wasn’t sure if they were mainly for kids or a whole new genre. Were they comic book like? Even when I was a kid I didn’t read many comic books. I asked a friend for a recommendation and am glad I did.

Maus is primarily the story of Vladek Spiegelman as told to his son Art. Vladek is living in Poland before the war where he meets and marries Anja Zylberberg in 1937. Soon Anja and Vladek, along with their new son Richieu, are struggling to survive together with their families. A twist is that throughout the story the Jewish people are mice and the Nazis are cats.

The story doesn’t gloss over the hardships and atrocities that Vladek witnessed during the war. I don’t know that it makes it any easier to look at because all the dead bodies are mice. Vladek and Anja do end up in Auschwitz and eventually Dachau. Art only has Vladek’s account because his mother, Anja, committed suicide when he was twenty.

The relationship between Vladek and Art is also depicted. Vladek is a difficult, old man. Is he difficult because of the Holocaust or would he have been difficult no matter what? And, does going through something like that give (or should it) Vladek extra privileges? One scene with Vladek and Art where Vladek returns food sticks in my mind. Art is sure he’s going to be kicked out of the store and they do see the manager yelling at Vladek, but he comes out to the car with more food for only $1.

Vladek:”He helped me as soon as I explained to him my health, how Mala left me, and how it was in the camps.”

This took place sometime in the 1980’s. Of course, the pictures add greatly to the scene.

This book didn’t tell me anything new about the Holocaust, but I’m probably not the target audience. This would be a reasonable introduction to a difficult topic for a mature pre-teen.

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