Cannonball 16: Maus: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds HistoryMaus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first heard the premise of Maus, my interest was immediately piqued.

Art Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, was a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The graphic novel (the only one ever to win a Pulitzer, by the way) tells his father’s story of survival, depicting the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats. The Gentile Poles are pigs, Americans are dogs, and the French are frogs (cute one, Spiegelman).

I expected it to be a standard, harrowing tale of torment, starvation, brutality, and survival, but I got a lot more than I bargained for. Spiegelman not only tells his father’s story, but his own. Vladek’s story is told in the context of his son’s research. Art wants to write a comic about his father’s life during WWII, but it’s impossible for his research not to affect him because his subject is his father. His father is not perfect; he fights with his wife, constantly comparing her to his first wife (Vladek remarried after Art’s mother, Anja, took her own life), expects Art to help him do stuff around the house without asking first, and complains to his son about everything.

Spiegelman is brutally honest in his portrayal of his relationship with his father. When Art is so easily annoyed by his father’s pack-rat tendencies and miserliness, I can totally relate. Like Art, I grew up in the United States. We weren’t rich, but we never starved, and we never knew what it was to go without the basic comforts of life. But my parents lived through the Korean War, and saving random odds and ends helped them to survive.

hoarder

Okay, so my kitchen isn't quite this bad, but only because I'm vigilant about putting things away and throwing stuff out when my parents aren't looking.

I get annoyed with my parents for saving useless containers and using them as Tupperware, despite the fact that our cabinets are overflowing with actual Tupperware. I hate that there’s so much clutter and useless junk in our house. I recently noticed that my mother still keeps old Happy Meal toys in a curio cabinet in our living room. I hate that she gets so mad when I throw a pickle jar into the recycle bin after I finish all the pickles.

But I have no idea what it’s like to lose out on extra food for later because I don’t have anything to carry it in. I don’t know what it’s like to lose something and regret it because it’s not possible for me to buy a replacement. I change my clothes every day; I don’t know what it’s like to wear every article of clothing I own and still be cold.

And, yet, even though I know (objectively) what my parents suffered through, I still can’t help but think, But the war is over now! and get annoyed that my parents don’t seem to understand that.

Spiegelman sets up a fair bit of tension between his horror at what his father had to endure, his admiration for his father’s survival skills, and his inability to use that understanding of his father’s history to be nicer to him.

The first volume of Maus takes us right to the gates of Auschwitz, and Vladek has already lost a son to the genocide. And it’s not only the way that Spiegelman tells Vladek’s story that’s compelling, but also the way he shows his audience what it took for him to personally get that story to tell it.

View all my reviews

Advertisements

4 Comments »

  1. […] This kind of intergenerational dynamic one of the themes that Art Spiegelman explores in the first volume of Maus. […]

  2. Krista Said:

    When I was in high school, I was obsessed with anything related to the Holocaust. I live in a moderately-sized town, and my grandma took me to the library every other Saturday. Those librarians knew me as the girl who liked Holocaust books and would set them aside for me when they came in. This is only semi-embarrassing to me as an adult — I mean, I had the Dewy numbers for this section ingrained on my brain.

    Anyhow, even though it was pretty tough content for a 14-year-old, they set this aside for me. I tried to read it during our silent reading time in my freshman English class, but the teacher dismissed it as a “comic book.” Psh. Clearly she never read this. I remember getting to the end of it and freaking out because WHERE WAS PART II??? It wasn’t until I was an adult, working at Barnes & Noble, that I saw the two-volume set and I snatched it up and bought it with my discount and devoured it. I recommend it to anyone who can relate to its tale (like you), to those who have an interest in great graphic novels, or those who were, as I was, and am still to an extent, fascinated by WWII. Thanks for the review!

    • Jelinas Said:

      Krista, it sounds like we can totally be nerd friends. If you lived in Long Beach, I would totally try to set up library dates with you. šŸ™‚

  3. coryo Said:

    I will never ever forget reading this.


{ RSS feed for comments on this post} · { TrackBack URI }

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: