Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

I have already blogged a bit about my thoughts on Maus here, but it really deserves it's own post. Lots of people have already reviewed it, and it has been a little while since I read it, but it's one of those books that stays with you, and I want to add my thoughts to the discussion.

Maus is a graphic novel that tells the true story of the author's farther's Holocaust experience. Literacy representations of the Holocaust have become pretty plentiful. This is by no means a criticism, it's an important topic that's impossible to truly appreciate. Different interpretations show an insight into the diversity of experience, which can prevent readers from becoming desensitised to overwhelming statistics. Having said this, Maus definitely brings something new to an already diverse 'genre'. 

The history student within me can be skeptical of some overly fictions responses, I like the facts to be right. Our understanding of the past is all shaped through a combination of original artifacts, collective memory, and modern day remembrance. Our understanding is very much a product of our current society. Historical errors in modern day writing can help create historic myths, that reveal more about their author and the text's wider context, than the event itself

This doesn't mean that I don't like Historic fiction, I love historic fiction. I'm just picky. 
Maus isn't fiction, so this may all seem irrelevant, but I think that points still stand. Maus doesn't just present a Holocaust experience, but shows how one man's experience of the Holocaust effected those around him, including his relationship with his son. Maus doesn't create a historic myth, but Spiegelaman's honest presentation of this, sometimes difficult, relationship shows how the Holocaust stretched beyond its supposed start and end date, and merged into the present.  It's main purpose may be to tell a Holocaust experience, but it achieves so much more. 

Spiegelaman's illustrations are also amazing. Asides from the cover they are all black and white, the presentation is simple, but this is perfect. He lets the events speak for themselves, they don't need to be embellished or exaggerated. 

Jews are drawn as mice, Nazis as cats, Poles are pigs, Americans as dogs. These animal metaphors are subtle yet powerful. The Holocaust is shown as a literal cat and mouse chase, while questioning the stereotypes, segregation and racial ideas that caused it in the first place.  The characters are still very human, but Spiegelaman appears to be questioning the absence of 'human' morality that dominated the period.  Spiegelaman also regularly breaks the third wall and Maus is painfully real. 
I cannot recommend this book enough. It's a relatively recent edition to my collection, but already one of my most loaned. If reading isn't normally your thing, then hey, it's a graphic novel, you can still give it a go. :)

I'd love to hear you thoughts if you've read Maus. If you have any other graphic novel recommendations let me know! 

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