Title: Maus I: My Father Bleeds History
Author: Art Spiegelman
Genre: biographical/autobiographical graphic novel
Length: 155 pages
Source: personal collection
Resolutions/Challenges: Personal Collection Resolution; Memoir Resolution
Reason for Reading: I’ve been meaning to read this and Maus II ever since I was in high school, which was at least 5 years ago. I finally actually bought them so I could own them myself because I just knew they would be amazing and I could probably use them in social studies when I teach in the future 🙂
Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and History itself…
Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: The first is Spiegelman’s father’s account of how he and his wife survived Hitler’s Europe…The second is the author’s tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments and passing visits against a backdrop of history too large to pacify…
Part I of Maus takes Spiegelman’s parents to the gates of Auschwitz and him to the edge of despair…
My Thoughts: I really REALLY liked this graphic novel. I have always liked reading graphic novels, but I don’t seem to be able to find many that aren’t biographical in nature and anime at the same time. I would love for some more adult fiction in graphic form.
But I digress. This novel is really moving. Spiegelman represents the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats–the obvious relationship between cat and mouse being relevant in this case. Interestingly enough, the others–such as the other Christian Poles–are represented as pigs. I’m not sure how that fit into the cat-mouse dynamic. Maybe it’s not supposed to or maybe I’m missing cultural symbolism or something.
Regardless, I love the representation as animals. It really displays the innocence of the Jews, as far as why they were treated the way they were by the Germans. And, also, I have seen cats play around with mice before finally killing them. So maybe this is another reason Spiegelman used that depiction.
I also liked seeing how Vladek was portrayed in the past and in the “present”. He seems very much like a different person. But, he has not been to Auschwitz in this novel and perhaps (I’m pretty certain, actually) that place has some impact on how he is in his aging years.
One thing that this book really pointed out to me was that it was possible for Jews to live under German rule before going to work/concentration camps. For instance, Vladek and Anja live for 5-6 years under German rule, in and out of ghettos and hiding places before they are finally discovered and sent to Auschwitz (the very end of the novel). I guess I just tend to think that German invasion and sending off all the Jews to work/concentration camps was simultaneous, even if I know it’s not true. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be using excerpts from this and Maus II in my social studies-teaching future 🙂