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Maus: My Father Bleeds History v. 1: A Survivor's Tale Paperback – 1 Jun 1991
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"Maus is a book that cannot be put down, truly, even to sleep. When two of the mice speak of love, you are moved, when they suffer, you weep. Slowly through this little tale comprised of suffering, humor and life's daily trials, you are captivated by the language of an old Eastern European family, and drawn into the gentle and mesmerizing rhythm, and when you finish Maus, you are unhappy to have left that magical world." --Umberto Eco
The author-illustrator traces his father's imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp through a series of disarming and unusual cartoons arranged to tell the story as a novel.See all Product description
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As someone who loves learning about history, I was always going to like this graphic memoir. And while I’m on a bid to introduce myself to more non fiction, a graphic memoir was the perfect way to start that.
So this is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, drawn through his son, Art Spiegelman. And that one point alone – how it was done – was the main crux of my enjoyment. Because it wasn’t just the story of war. Oh no. Instead of simply drawing what his father said, Art Spiegelman actually drew the entire process. He drew himself visiting his dad, coaxing him into telling more of his story. He drew what he was like in later life, a small snapshot into how all this affected him long-term. And through that, I found myself feeling like I was sat right in front of Vladek Spiegelman – him in a chair, myself cross legged on the floor – while he told his story. How a graphic memoir can do that, with so little words in comparison to novels, is beyond me. But I loved it.
And then we have the art. Completely black and white with quite a sketchy look, each page is packed with drawings. It can look a bit overwhelming at first, but I personally think it suits the story really well. There’s the metaphor too – the Nazis are drawn as cats, terrorising the mice (ding ding ding, we have the title: Maus). Such a simple way to explain things, in a time when things weren’t simple at all. Suitable for a graphic memoir though, since there’s not really much leverage in explaining who each person on the page is and which “side” they belong to.
I expected to get emotional. But… I didn’t. I have a feeling that’s partly to do with the fact it’s a graphic memoir, and not as much time is spent describing how horrendous everything is. But also because of Vladek Spiegelman himself. It’s his story, yet as he tells it, he doesn’t seem to reveal many emotions. He just…tells the story. Here are the facts. This is what happened.
Though I might have felt more had a bit more been revealed about Art Spiegelman’s mother. In the beginning, it’s mentioned that she committed suicide after the war, and while it does go into it a little bit, nothing about that is really explained. Granted, that may be because they don’t know much themselves. But still. She’s mentioned so often throughout the memoir – as you would expect – but she herself doesn’t seem to be in it much. I’d have liked to see more of her.
As hard as they try, books will never be able to portray these events accurately. Nothing will. There’s a nod to that even in this book. But with things like these, though I (luckily) may not be able to imagine such ongoing hunger, such heartbreak, the pain and suffering…I might be able to understand a bit more. I can read books like this and know that at least their story isn’t going untold. At least I’ll be here, remembering for them. And that is the least I can do.
They say that a picture paints a thousand words, but master cartoonist and artist Art Spiegelman has drawn a lifetime. Tracing his father's experiences of the Holocaust, Spiegelman delivers something intensely powerful and emotional.
It may seem insensitive to portray the horrors of the Holocaust in a cartoon form, but there's actually something deeply immersive about this format. Like all good art should, the medium of this story pulls you into the experience; opening up the pores of our soul to receive the full potency of this stories message. With each frame of this cartoon you sense the foreboding danger, the growing dehumanisation, and the shock of what transpired.
The gas chambers and incinerators of Auschwitz, the forced labour, the street hangings, the disenfranchisement of homes and businesses and basic human dignity; the demonisation, scapegoating, and media-induced prejudice; the public beatings; the survivalist-led betrayal from neighbour and friends and countrymen; the slow and corrosive stripping away of personal identity which culminated in being reduced to a number...maybe if we could go back and witness these things we would turn ourselves away and refuse to reflect on the horror. But we need to see, and we need to learn, and *Maus*, alongside the stories of other survivors, helps us to do this.
The Holocaust is something we should never forget. Especially in today's world, where we find ourselves once more giving our ears and voices to the growing tide of stigmatisation, fear-mongering, nationalism and the dehumanisation of certain people groups. We may feel our words and opinions have no effect, that they're 'innocent' or 'harmless', but history shows how dangerously ignorant such thinking can be and how catastrophic the consequences are.
--Tristan Sherwin, author of *Love: Expressed*.
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Do Read!! I think this book is the most immersive read I've experienced in a long time.Read more