You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

My Photo
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Maus I

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History is a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman detailing his mother's and father's experiences as Jews in Poland during World War II. The story is told to him by his father during Art's visits to his father's and stepmother's house. The conversation between Art and his father Vladek is more than a framing narrative. Art wants to learn his father's history, his experiences trying to survive during the Holocaust. During the narration Art asks questions, and Vladek relates stories to the present. Vladek's life before and during the war is contrasted with his life with his current wife. The six chapters were published separately in the early 1980's.

Vladek's story begins in southwest Poland in the 1930's. He becomes a successful businessman and meets his future wife Anja. Anja's father helps him start up a textile factory. But war is approaching with Germany. When war start Vladek is drafted and is soon on the front line, and soon after that is captured. He and other Jews are forced to work under harsh conditions. Eventually he manages to get free and get transported to his family.

One of the notable elements of the graphic novel is that the Jews are portrayed as mice and the Nazis are cats. This both co-opts Nazi propaganda and makes the Nazis feel very sinister and threatening.

Also the Poles are protrayed as pigs. This illustrates the difference between Gentile Poles and the Jewish Poles. The Jewish Poles cannot always trust that the other Poles will not turn against them. When the Jews are trying to pass as Poles, they wear pig masks.

Vladek and Anja must continually find places to hide and scrounge for food. Sometimes they hide with other Jews and sometimes with friendly Gentiles. Often they are betrayed. They depend on family connections and bribery of Poles and Germans. They send their son to another city where they think they will be safer, but learn later that the woman he was with poisoned herself and the children she was keeping when the Nazis came for them. As things get worse the tension grows and the Jews become more and more desparate. As the story closes (this is only part one) Vladek gets sent to Auschwitz.

This is a very touching story that is very well dramatized. Vladek's feelings are expressed in words and pictures, about his family, his friends, his losses. The story is strengthened by Art's interest in his father's past and his troubled history with his mother. All of them suffered last effects from the struggle to survive the war. The illustrations are very expressive and show the suffering of the characters. Even though the story is dark, it is informative and poignant. I would recommend this to anyone. A

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home