Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman

TitleMaus II: And Here My Troubles Began
Author: Art Spiegelman
Genre: biographical/autobiographical graphic novel
ISBN: 9780679729778
Length: 126 pages
Published: 1986
Source: personal collection
Rating: 4.5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: Personal Collection ResolutionMemoir/Biography Resolution
Awards: 1992 Pulitzer Prize

Reason for Reading: Well, I read Maus I yesterday, so it just made sense to continue 🙂

Summary:

This second volume…moves us from the barracks of Auschwitz to the bungalows of the Catskills…it attains a complexity of theme and a precision of thought…Maus ties together two powerful stories: Vladek’s harrowing tale of survival against all odds, delineating the paradox of daily life in the death camps, and the author’s account of his relationship with his aging father.

My Thoughts: I liked this one slightly less than Maus I. I’m pretty sure this is due to the fact that there is more in this one set in the present and those parts didn’t interest me as the war years and Vladek’s story.

However, there were a couple of “passages” that I really liked.

I know this is insane, but I somehow wish I had been in Auschwitz with my parents so I could really know what they lived through!
I guess it’s some kind of guilt about having had an easier life than they did. (p16)

|

No matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz. (p44)

Both of those passages, I think, convey why children of Holocaust survivors might feel guilt. I always sort of wondered why the children would feel particularly guilty. I knew that I would feel guilty because I had it easier, but I didn’t realize that it would be so magnified by just being a child of a survivor. Maybe I sort of thought the children would feel victimized because their parents were. I’m not exactly sure. And the second quote, of basically an inferiority complex, I don’t think I ever would have thought of myself.

Maus I: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

TitleMaus I: My Father Bleeds History
Author: Art Spiegelman
Genre: biographical/autobiographical graphic novel
ISBN: 9780394747231
Length: 155 pages
Published: 1973
Source: personal collection
Rating: 5/5
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 🙂

Summary: 

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 🙂

first book purchase of 2010

Only a few days ago–3 to be exact–I order from Amazon.com the following:

  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig
  • America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (1200 recipes!!)

Today, I received them! I was amazed. I didn’t think I would get them so soon. But I am so happy! I have reasons for getting these books–I hardly ever buy books on a whim now. AQotWF was purchased because it is a great historical fiction about trench warfare–I’m actually using an excerpt from it in my WWI unit at school next week. Betrayal of the Blood Lily is the 5th installment in my favorite series–therefore, I always buy them…it’s my series 🙂 And the cookbook is because Nick and I have our own apartment now and we need something like that–it’s a really nice cookbook, with a bunch of normal recipes (nothing to froofy or hard).

It’s sort of sad how excited I am to have these books…but I don’t care 😀

FYI, Betrayal of the Blood Lily was published in 2010. Therefore, I can use it for my 2010 resolution to read at least 5 books published in 2010.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Title: All Quiet on the Western Front
Author: Erich Maria Remarque
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 291 pages
Borrowed from my library for RBC discussion
Rating: 5/5

Description from Amazon.com (not necessarily Amazon’s description)

“All Quiet on the Western Front” is probably the most famous anti-war novel ever written. The story is told by a young ‘unknown soldier’ in the trenches of Flanders during the First World War. Through his eyes we see all the realities of war; under fire, on patrol, waiting in the trenches, at home on leave, and in hospitals and dressing stations. Although there are vividly described incidents which remain in mind, there is no sense of adventure here, only the feeling of youth betrayed and a deceptively simple indictment of war – of any war – told for a whole generation of victims.

I cannot even describe my feelings towards this book. I absolutely loved it. I am a person who doesn’t really believe in war and this book completely describes why. The whole novel was beautifully written, in spite of the gruesome scenes that were written.

While reading this book, I felt similar to when I read Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Which is interesting when you think about it–both of these books were written in another language. If I felt the translations were beautiful, I can’t even imagine how the originals were.

One reason I feel I was so into this book was, not only because we were discussing it (and I fell behind 😦 ), but because I am currently planning my next unit that I will start in January during my student teaching. That just happens to be WWI. If I had more time and/or was more experienced as a teacher, I would have my students read this whole book and center my teaching around it. But that also has to do with the teaching style I have.

In short, All Quiet on the Western Front is definitely a great war story. It is not, what I think is, the normal kind of war book. It shows the real side of war. Not non-stop horror or killing. It is quite clear that the author doesn’t believe that the war he was fighting was a good thing. But I admire him for doing what he felt was his duty. One of the most interesting things about this book is that it was written by a German ex-soldier, a “bad guy” to the country I live in. And the author even addresses the fact that soldiers on both sides of the war had the same experiences, but I really liked thinking about that when I was reading it.

I highly recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in WWI, or wars in general. This book has a spot in my Top 10.

PS- I really hope I get this book for Christmas, like I asked, because I need to give the library’s book back but I want to transfer all of my notes and dog-ears 🙂

And here is a conversation about war I loved from this novel:

“But what I would like to know,” says Albert, “is whether there would not have been a war if the Kaiser had said No.” “I’m sure there would,” I interject, “he was against it from the first.”

“Well, if not him alone, then perhaps if twenty or thirty people in the world had said No.”

“That’s probable,” I agree, “but they damned well said Yes.”

“It’s queer, when one thinks about it,” goes on Kropp, “we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?” “Perhaps both,” say I without believing it. “Yes, well now,” pursues Albert, and I see that he means to drive me into a corner, “but our professors and parsons and newspapers say that we are the only ones that are right, and let’s hope so;–but the French professors and parsons and newspapers say that the right is on their side, now what about that?”

“That I don’t know,” I say, “but whichever way it is there’s war all the same and every month more countries coming in.”

Tjaden reappears. He is still quite excited and again joins the conversation, wondering just how a war gets started.

“Mostly by one country badly offending another,” answers Albert with a slight air of superiority.

Then Tjaden pretends to be obtuse. “A country? I don’t follow. A mountain in Germany cannot offend a mountain in France. Or a river, or a wood, or a field of wheat.”

“Are you really as stupid as that, or are you just pulling my leg?” growls Kropp, “I don’t mean that at all. One people offends the other–”

“Then I haven’t any business here at all,” replies Tjaden. “I don’t feel myself offended.” (p.110-111)