21 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Powerful book ruined by racist stereotyping,
This review is from: The Complete MAUS (Paperback)I have a real, real problem with this book. It's a powerful piece, and tells the story of one family's experiences of the Holocaust in grim and gripping detail. it's also an amazing exploration of the relationship between a father and son. I'd love to give it 5 stars. And yet... I couldn't give a decent rating to a book that depicted black people, Muslims or gays as pigs, and I can't give a good rating to a book that depicts Poles as pigs. The book is not the history of the Polish people during the occupation, fair enough, but Spiegleman draws on stereotypes and shows a great deal of ignorance of events in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine during the years of the Nazi occupation. He seems to prefer the Nazis to the Poles. The Nazis are evil but elegant, the Poles are just brute animals. Apparently, when Spiegelman was challenged about the way he depicts Poles in this book, he said 'Stop squealing.' I haven't a source for this quote, and I hope it this story is untrue. Powerful? Yes. Racist? Sadly, yes.
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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Feb 2012 13:02:42 GMT
C.O. Jones says:
The animals chosen to depict each race have no relevance to any national stereotypes. Spiegelman simply "borrowed" the depiction from the Nazis; pigs for the Polish people because the Nazis referred to them as "schwein", just as they referred to the Jews as vermin. He wished to lampoon the madness of stereotyping and dividing humans by race, colour or creed. To quote Spiegelman, "...I'm unhappy that so many readers thought it was OK to use vermin for Jews but not pigs for Poles."
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Feb 2012 13:50:16 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Feb 2012 13:51:34 GMT
Danuta Reah says:
Spiegelman's own words contradict this idea that he simply 'borrowed' Nazi stereotypes. He said, when challenged about the depiction of Poles as pigs, "There's been mostly a very understanding and supportive response, certainly within the community of the directly affected and afflicted. And a cry - a squeal, let's say - of outrage from the Polish community." It seems he, too, must think Polish people are pigs. Yes, he depicts the Jews as 'vermin', but he uses animals that are seen, in fictional contexts, as sweet, bold and brave. He doesn't, for example, depict them as cockroaches or rats, which were the examples the Nazis used. I'm sure he didn't do that because that would be grossly insulting to the Jews - even though this was the Nazi depiction. He was happy, however, to use the pig from Nazi stereotyping, an image still seen in the world today. I quote from an article that was published in the US in the Haverford alumni magazine:'While the community has several problems, most of them come back to the high density of Polish people infesting its rowhouses. Mocking Poles for being stupid is perhaps the last form of politically correct prejudice, as well as the most accurate.' The stereotype exits, and Spiegelman, sadly, promotes it.
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Feb 2012 16:58:00 GMT
i thank danuta reah for her courage and integrity.
fwiw, my own review of maus has been censored by amazon. no idea why. it can be read here:
Posted on 4 Apr 2012 15:28:09 BDT
T. WILLIAMS says:
You really should read around before making such ill-informed comments. Perhaps reading 'MetaMaus' will help make you realise how wrong you are about the "racist stereotyping" you claim to find in Spiegelman's 'Maus'. Here's a selection of direct quotes from 'MetaMaus':
"I wasn't necessarily trying to find a pejorative - but trying to find an animal outside the chain-mouse chain, and I found Porky Pig."
(Spiegelman 2011, p.121)
"There seems to be something deeply problematic about the Polish ability to assimilate its past. It proves that the book actually hit something alive, a nerve that need to be cauterized."
(Spiegelman 2011, p.124)
As C.O. Jones previously stated, the Nazis referred to the Polish as "scwein", whilst saying "Jews are the vermin of mankind". Spiegelman doesn't condone racist stereotyping by using such conceits throughout the novel, but in fact highlights how ludicrous it is to discriminate others based on their nationality, colour, or beliefs. Although it may appear cliché, in various instances throughout the novel Spiegelman in fact exposes the fragility of such stereotyping by explicitly illustrating one's identity as a mask. However, even if there is a pejorative undertone with regards to presenting the Poles as Pigs, surely he has every right to do so? Yes, Poland was under Nazi oppression, but that doesn't excuse the fact that many Poles during WW2 Poland facilitated the persecution of Jewish people. And yes, I appreciate in many circumstances they had little choice, but the fact that they were involved still remains and should not erased from the history books.
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2012 16:43:19 BDT
Danuta Reah says:
I have read, and listened, around. I suspect I am more informed than you are. I have read, to name a few, the relevant books by Norman Davies, Timothy Snyder, Neal Ascherson, Danusha Goska, Anthony Beevor, Jan Gross, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. I have read the memoirs of the survivors of the Warsaw uprising, both Polish and Jewish survivors.
Before and during the war, there was active anti-semitism in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Greece (not to mention Austria and Germany, of course) where people co-operated with the Nazis, despite being under a relatively benign regime (compared with what was happening in eastern Europe.) In Eastern Europe, many people in Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, who had suffered dreadfully under Stalin, saw the Nazis as liberators (at first) also cooperated - some of the worst atrocities under the Nazi regimes were carried out by police groups from the Baltic states. The Jews were seen (unjustly - it was the behaviour of the few not the many) as having collaborated with the Soviets in the oppression and mass killings of Stalin's rule (it's possible, for example, that 90,000 people were executed and buried in the Kurapaty Forest alone by the Soviets, just a minuscule number of the people killed by that regime).
Similar hostility existed in Poland in certain areas, and, as in so many countries, some Poles did not behave well at this time. People under the kinds of oppression the Soviets and then the Nazis imposed on Eastern Europe often don't behave well (I suspect I would not). The Poles certainly didn't 'facilitate' the holocaust. in any way That is both an outrageous thing to say, and completely wrong. The Poles were untermensch, and Hitler planned to enslave some and exterminate those who were of no use to his new German nation. In the earlier days of the war, before Hitler realised he would not get the expanded state he planned by his invasion of Russia, his plans for all the untermensch - including the Jews - were the same: enslavement and extermination. It wasn't until the later years that the genocide focused entirely on the Jewish people.
Why doesn't Spiegelman depict the Americans, the Soviets and the Brits as pigs? They are more guilty, if you want to make accusations, of 'facilitating' the holocaust. It was government policy in the US and the UK not to allow Jews visas to escape Nazi oppression. The Allies did almost nothing to save the Jews. When Jan Karski brought news of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the death camps, the Allies took no action. The Soviets did worse. When Warsaw rose against the Nazis, (helped by more than 1,000 Jews who had been hidden by the Warsaw Poles) the Soviets waited until the Nazis had killed the Polish insurgents (Stalin called them thugs and criminals. He did not want Warsaw liberated by Poles), and the few who escaped behind Soviet lines were shot.
Poland was sold to Stalin at the end of the war, and much of what we know is what Stalin chose to tell us. However, for some reason, Spiegelman chooses to depict the Poles as pigs - the 'something alive' he feels he hit may have something to do with the hurt caused to the people most named as righteous in Israel for the assistance they gave the Jews - despite facing a horrible death for it - during the war.
Spiegelman clearly feels he has the right to depict Poles as pigs. When the racist nature of his stereotyping was pointed out to him, he said the Poles should 'stop squealing.' Given that, I feel more than justified in criticising what would otherwise be a powerful and moving book.
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2012 17:09:01 BDT
T. Williams. I clicked on your name and saw that you have no buying history at Amazon, no Amazon friends, no review history.
Why hide behind a false identity? If you truly believe what you are saying, and if you think it is genuinely respectable, would you not write under a real name, as Danuta Reah has done? As I do?
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2012 17:12:34 BDT
T Williams, you wrote:
"even if there is a pejorative undertone with regards to presenting the Poles as Pigs, surely he has every right to do so."
That's the core of your post, right there.
Answer: Don't you get it that isolating the worst thing that a member of any given ethnicity has ever done and dehumanizing the rest of that population throughout time is exactly what the Nazis did?
Don't you get it that you are sanctioning the exact same strategies of hate employed by the Nazis?
You do so because it is currently PC to do so. Back in '39, the same logic you deploy in your Amazon post, above, could have inspired you to raise your stiff arm in a fashionable Seig Heil (sp?)
Danuta Reah, in her review, above, and her comments here, is inviting you to overcome hate. And yet you embrace it all the more emphatically.
Leave hate. Consider justice.
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Apr 2012 17:13:41 BDT
"Why doesn't Spiegelman depict the Americans, the Soviets and the Brits as pigs?"
My own book, "Bieganski," answers that question. There is a very real reason -- actually there are several very real reasons -- why Poles have been selected for scapegoating.
Posted on 10 Apr 2012 21:16:22 BDT
This is possibly one of the most stupid, unhelpful reviews I've ever read on Amazon. Depicting Muslims and gays as pigs? Did I miss something? You've lost the plot.
In reply to an earlier post on 10 Apr 2012 21:40:33 BDT
Wieslawa Niziol says:
This is BS as anyone who lived in the US knows. Spiegelman did not portray Jews as vermin, he portrayed them as Mickey-Mouse cousins that everyone loves and adores. If he did portray them as ugly dirty rats the way Germans did - than then maybe I would buy his explanations. For me he remains a racist !