Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book Review: Maus I- A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

As someone who loved comics, my favorite Sunday memory outside of going to church, is reading the paper with my grandfather, although I would just read the comics. Denis the Menace, Donald Duck, Family Ties, and a bunch of adult ones that I didn't understand but loved the look of them. These were what I like to call easy safe for children comics. It's the happy stuff, no one really likes to talk about the bad stuff. Heck, I don't like talking about the bad stuff. This is a dangerous mindset when it comes to history though. We are bound to repeat what we don't learn from. That's where this painfully beautiful graphic novel or comic comes in.

I have read this novel once a month since January because it really is a painful comic. I believe you need to enjoy it in chunks.

The issue with comics that are safe for children is that they are stripped of any pain, they make us believe that life is always going to be a grand adventure, or that bad stuff never happens. Which is so far from the truth. I don't believe that children should necessarily be exposed to gruesome elements of life every day, but I don't believe she should completely shelter them either. Of course, parents can use their best judgment. This book or comic books, in general, will give us the ability to do that without forcing children to sit in the corner, or entirely saturate them in the pain.

Actually, in the past comic books have been used to do just that. Think about DC comics and you will see their point, to explain a little about what war is in a child-like way. I don't wish to state anything about whether this is right or wrong, just pointing out an interesting piece of American literature.

On of the biggest reason why men like Hitler or groups like the Nazi's tend to take hold is because they try and occasionally succeeded at dehumanizing their perceived enemy, in this case, it was the jews. The famous quote of Adolf Hitler is, " The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but not human." They nearly succeeded at this. This comic book tells us the human story of a dark era, thus breaking the mindset and breaking light to the subject. The book is to from a very personal side, that of his father, yet it is distant and factual. It is extremely emotionally gripping.

This is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, who is a Jewish survivor of the horrible holocaust. He survived Auschwitz and has also had an extremely troubled and possibly at times complicated relationship with his son, Art Spiegelman. He is a man who is so detailed, and almost obsessive about things, which seems to create quite a rift. They tend to have such a love- almost hate relationship. On thing I loved about this book is it wasn't just the holocaust, it was also a story about how much pain and abuse can affect you and those that you love. He saw unimaginable suffering and struggled with coping with his son how was born after the holocaust had occurred. I believe this is also the tale of exactly how survivors guilt can take on the human soul.

This story is painted about Art's parents, up until their incarceration, if you want to call it that in Auschwitz. It is interestingly narrated by a handsome man, an entrepreneur of sorts, living in Poland. The story also talks about his blissful, and enjoyable life with his wife Anja. This is until the war, and holocaust turn their life upside down. The story is mainly about how Nazism really gained a strong hold in German and then moved through most of Europe. The story about how life for the jews, became very unsafe. You can feel the fear, and stress as you turn the pages.

Ultimately we see that Vladek is captured as a prisoner of war. He observes the way that they are treated. They way that it is so different from that of other prisoners of war. That ultimately the Nazis just want to see them in the ground. As you flip through the pages you see how Poland is changed,  how this hate spreads across their homeland like wildfire.

This book will break your heart in unimaginative ways. Prepare to experience a variety of mixed emotions as you read through this important illustrated narrative of unimaginative human strength and overcoming unbearable pain. I can not recommend this comic enough. Even if you never read another comic this is one you just cannot afford to miss.

Book Links: Amazon and Goodreads 

Goodreads Description: 

This is a 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning illustrated narrative of Holocaust survival.

Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times).

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

1 comment:

  1. This is truly one of my very favorite graphic novels. It's smart and poignant and painful.
    I truly love it.