The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale

by Art Spiegelman

Hardcover, 1996


The Pulitzer Prize-winning 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.… (more)



Call number



Pantheon (1996), 296 pages

User reviews

LibraryThing member Smiler69
Well, I started writing comments the day after I'd finished reading The Complete Maus, and while I think I'm over my initial distress, there's no denying it's brought back plenty of bad memories. I'd only gotten as far as the following: "I think [Maus II] has traumatized me all over again. My
Show More
shrink and I have come to the conclusion some years back that I've long suffered from PTSD for a range of traumatic episodes in my life, one of which was having been exposed to the horrors of WWII at a young age. I don't know why they thought it was a good idea to show 10 or 12-years olds all that footage and those photos, and bone and tooth fragments and tattered concentration camp uniforms and stories about Jews being turned into lampshades and soap, and I don't know what else when I was living in Israel. Shouldn't children be innocent of such horrors? Isn't that what childhood is about??!"

In any case, yes, when I lived in Israel as a child, we were repeatedly "reminded" of these horrors of the holocaust and taken to various holocaust museums and shown footage in the classroom, especially on Yom HaShoah, which is a commemoration day held in Israel and abroad. I remember being horror stricken, yet completely fascinated by those images of hundreds of skeletal naked bodies heaped into piles, which have never left my mind. I've always known of course that the better part of my Jewish father's side of the family had ended up killed in the camps, and how my father himself remained alive, although he was born in Siberia in 1940 is entirely owing to my grandmother who apparently had nerves of steel and was endlessly resourceful, which of course is the first thing you find out about any Jew who came out of WWII and lived to tell about it, though luck also plays a large role in a great many of those stories. If anything, Spiegelman's book has reminded me once again that I need to sit down and record my father's stories about the past before they are gone along with him.

So, those are my overall random impressions about the Holocaust. Now what about the book itself? I remember well when the first book was published in the mid-80s and I saw it displayed at my favourite book shop, which held all kinds of nifty titles which were hard to find everywhere else, and where graphic novels and comics held a place of honour. I wanted badly to buy it, but there was the price, which was steep for one like me who's income came for occasional babysitting gigs. But beyond that, I was terrified to find out what Art Spiegelman's version of the Holocaust was, having been exposed to a great many already, none of which were pretty or joyful affairs (which goes without saying). But about a week or so ago, I finally got my courage up to pick up the omnibus version containing both volumes, which I had finally purchased a number of years ago, yet didn't have the nerve to actually read until then.

Spiegelman's approach is unique not only for the obvious reason that he chose to tell his father's story in a comic strip format, but also because, instead of simply relating his father's story as a simple observer, he chose to include himself in it too, describing his misgivings about his approach to writing and illustrating the book and his anxieties as to whether he would manage to convey the story in a convincing way yet be respectful too. What I found especially touching was that the book delves just as much into his own relationship with his father as it does into his father's past. Like countless other survivors, Spiegelman senior carried deep emotional scars which gave expression to a full range of neurotic behaviour. Far from glossing over the old man's maddening personality traits, Art Spiegelman shared with us even those aspects which gave truth to the anti-semitic and stereotypical view that Jews are miserly to the extreme, though he did so with trepidation, which he also shared with the reader. His father was so strongly attached to his money and possessions that he was not beyond rationing out wood matches, returning half-eaten cereal boxes to the supermarket, and refusing to pay for his second wife's basic personal expenses, though it was given to us to understand that he had plenty of money in the bank. I could only too well sympathize with the author's overbearing guilt about how difficult it was for him to spend time with the old man, even if only on rare occasions and for short amounts of time. Seen from the outside, a Jewish man's neuroses can be seen as funny in the extreme, which is something Woody Allen has capitalized on during his whole career to often hilarious effect. At one point in the book, his father, who had been in ill health for some time, got extremely sick and evidently needed constant care. His wife had left him at the point, unwilling to continue living with the generally ill-tempered, close-fisted man. Yet one can completely understand Art's categorical refusal—which he had to express repeatedly—of living in the same household with his father, who, as he was all too realistically described, must have been impossible to live with. I've often heard, that children of Holocaust survivors are victims and survivors themselves, as was confirmed to me by one such daughter I had many conversations with, a woman who had become a psychologist and therefore had plenty of interesting insights to share. It seems inevitable that parents who have suffered great trauma, as have Holocaust survivors, often make their children feel that their trials and tribulations can never equal that which they experienced. And perhaps as a consequence, the survivor's guilt the parents are plagued with is all too often shared by their children, an aspect also presented in Maus very convincingly, though in Art Spiegelman's case this guilt was augmented by the fact that his mother had taken her own life without leaving a note when he was a young man.

The first book covers a period from the mid-1930s and into the early 40s, and describes how Spiegelman Sr., living in Poland, met his wife, and his relationship with her extremely wealthy family, the fruit of which they generously shared with the young and attractive man he had been. Then soon enough came the oppressive restriction which continued increasing over the years until they lost all their possessions and liberty. Art's father was an amazing resourceful man, and he shows how he was able to avoid capture for he and his wife, even as the rest of the family were taken one by one. I was absolutely engrossed with this first part, which in many ways is pure action adventure, though mixed in with the author's own existential questioning, which creates a very unique context for a Holocaust story. The illustrations are fairly simply rendered with plenty of amusing details. Here, I should probably mention that one of the most important aspects of the book, which also explains the title, is that Spiegelman chose to represent the Jews at mice, and the Nazis as cats, and I suppose the anthropomorphism was meant to create an emotional remove from the horrors beings described. In many ways this is an effective device, but my experience was that I did not see the animals and couldn't simply stay on the page and the illustrations without imagining the actual people and settings. This is probably part of the reason I found book II: And Here my Troubles Began, so very difficult, because in this volume, we witness the concentration camps, particularly Auschwitz, where the living conditions and the daily struggle to survive, as so many are put to death in a variety of ways, are described in quite some detail. Yet, there is also the incredible story of resilience and survival against the odds, all of which makes for a powerful experience. No wonder this comic book won a Pulitzer prize, this is most definitely deep stuff and very original in it's presentation. A must.
Show Less
LibraryThing member flissp
A graphic novel/biography/auto-biography written by Art Spiegelman, about his father, Vladek (also, to a lesser extent, his mother and other relatives), both of whom were Polish Jews and made it first through the Ghetto (not Warsaw), then Auschwitz.

I don't know how to review this really, but it
Show More
will almost certainly be in my top 5 of the year list. It is not just a survival story (although this is the sub-title), woven in is the complicated relationship Art Spiegelman had with his father and his own struggles with himself. Clearly Vladek Spiegelman was a difficult individual and his son shows him warts and all, he doesn't turn him into some mythical hero. But if he is honest about his father, he is also honest about himself (or this is how it comes across anyway).

People can be very snotty about graphic novels, but if they're written well and designed in such a format, it can be a fantastic way to add an extra layer to a story. Spiegelman does this extremely well - the images allowing a subtle satire that is only once directly commented on, but somehow, because of that, has a greater impact.
Show Less
LibraryThing member dmsteyn
Maus - a recounting of Art Spiegelman's own father's experience of WW2 as a Jew - really captures something that I haven't experienced in most other WW2 stories. The rough drawings perfectly fit the matter-of-fact tone of Vladek Spiegelman's story, and the animal imagery doesn't so much dehumanise
Show More
the characters as accentuate the deceptive simplicity of the tale.

The story may be straightforward, but the complexity of human interaction is never obscured: Spiegelman doesn't paint his father as anything but a lucky survivor - in many ways a broken, ravaged man. Nor does he flinch from relating the story of his mother, Anja, who, despite surviving Auschwitz, still committed suicide in America. Why did she kill herself? Art seems as perplexed as the reader. I think it reflects, in many way, the knottiness of all human life. Art doesn't understand - perhaps cannot - understand her death, in the same way that he can neverr really understand his father's experience of Auschwitz.

In the end, the story of Spiegelman facing his dead leaves us with the same unanswerable questions: Why? How could any of this really have happened? And will it happen again?
Show Less
LibraryThing member Ayling
This is my first graphic novel (asides from Tin Tin that I read when I was 11 and the Beano when I was 9!) and I loved it. I don't think it matters whether you like graphic novels or not for this book - so if you're like me and thought you wouldn't get along with it, give it a try.This is an
Show More
incredibly human account of an individual's experience of being a Polish Jew. Despite the fact the 'characters' are portrayed as animals - it is one of the most human and most real-feeling accounts I've seen or read. This is more then a graphic representation of some random story - it's a personal story between a father and his son as well as the father's journey and experience during this time - running away, living in hiding, in the ghetto and finally in Auschwitz. Art Spiegelman also draws himself in - and the process of writing this graphic novel.I think nowadays it is easy to become desensitised to images of the war - bombs, broken bits of body etc from movies and the such like. Somehow, the cartoon portrayal of these real-people's lives seems to make it more real then ever. Parts made me laugh, parts made me cry particularly in Maus II. By the end I felt a real closeness towards both father and son. I think back over the story and remind myself it is real, that what I read on the pages happened to THIS person not just a fictional representation that happened to a fictional person.It is no 'big hero' blockbuster, but a moving story of a very strong minded man who fought to survive.
Show Less
LibraryThing member EBT1002
What is there to say about this poignant graphic memoir based on Spiegelman's interviews with his father who survived the Holocaust? The New York Times apparently described it as "an epic story told in tiny pictures." That pretty much captures it.

This is truth-telling at its best. Not only does
Show More
Spiegelman illustrate (literally) the experiences of his father in Poland during WWII, including some number of months in Auschwitz, he also honestly and poignantly captures his adult struggle with his father, and his struggle with how to portray his father without reifying antisemitic stereotypes. Ultimately compassionate, this graphic memoir is both history and family drama.

Very highly recommended for the estimated 7% of avid readers who have not yet read this one. If it doesn't make you flinch, you need to have your heart checked.
Show Less
LibraryThing member AmronGravett
You’ve likely heard of this graphic novel since it won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize. This is one of the most important contributions to the genre as well as to the history of the Holocaust. Spiegelman tells his father’s survival story using cat and mouse characters. But don’t be fooled. The
Show More
rawness and the truths are even more compelling. Get the complete collection published as a set which includes My Father Bleeds History and Here My Troubles Began. When you’re done with this one, go find his graphic novel biography about his experiences on 9/11 titled In The Shadow of No Towers (2004). It’s as honest and breathtaking as Maus.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Josh_Hanagarne
Cannot say enough good things about this book. One of the few times that I've said a story was expressed more effectively through the graphic novel format. Deceptively simple, worth pondering and revisiting.
LibraryThing member jorgearanda
The Holocaust story has been told countless times, but Maus still surprises with the contrast between the war time and the peaceful but troubled retirement of Vladek Spiegelman.

The people-as-animals gimmick (Jewish as rats, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs) often works, but sometimes feels cheap. And
Show More
there's absolutely nothing cat-like about nazis.

The second book is even better than the first. Spiegelman achieves an exploration of the complex and difficult personality of his father in comic book form.
Show Less
LibraryThing member hansenm2
Maus is a great book to be used in a Unit because it incorporates so many aspects of literature and history. First off, any student that has any knowledge/interest in the Holocaust would probably benefit from this book because that is its subject manner. Secondly, if a student is really into
Show More
reading graphic novels (otherwise called comic books) they would thoroughly enjoy it as well. In this manner it is more multicultural as well. This is because it appeals not only to students who like to read regular novels, but also to the comic book culture, which, in case you were wondering, really is a separate culture all of its own. As an added feature a struggling reader might like this book because it gives them visual cues that they can use to understand the context of what is being read. Also, once a struggling reader has made it through this tough of a book they may be more willing to read more traditional novels. Above all else this novel combines English with History so that History and English teachers could teach units correspondingly. This way what students learn in one class can be reinforced in the other. The only problem with Maus is that a teacher might be hard pressed to get funding for a “comic book” from in some school districts. However, I think it would be well worth the investment for both the education of the students and so they can have fun while learning.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Schopflin
I'm not generally a reader of graphic novels, although I loved 'In the Shadow of No Towers'. Like that, 'Maus' is beautifully drawn, humorous and moving in turns. Graphic novels can avoid some of the criticisms thrown at filmmakers for choosing to depict the holocaust at all or for doing it with
Show More
too much or too little taste. Having all the main characters with animals heads, for example, removes the sense of reality from the potentially undepictable. How far you can accept a protagonist with the body of a man and the head of a mouse has its own problems of course (and that the Poles and Germans are all depicted with pigs' heads).

However, 'Maus' isn't really a holocaust story - it's really about a parent-child relationship. 'Art' the protagonist listens to his father's amazing story of courage, resilience and resourcefulness and admires him - at the same time as finding him as irritating and frustrating as he always did. You don't have to have a parent who has lived through important events in history to feel a gulf between their life achievements and the person you've always known: that's something most of us can identify with. And something I found funny and painful as the best stories of this kind are.
Show Less
LibraryThing member peajayar
This is the book that got me interested in graphic novels. Now I am re-reading it and finding it every bit as compelling and moving as when I first found it.

The difficult relationship between art and his father in the present-time of the book is beautifully counter-poised with the father's story
Show More
of survival. Neither is easy, both are dealt with - I want to say fearlessly, but suspect there was quite a lot of fear involved in the telling of the stories in this book. I guess what I mean is that the fear didn't interfere with the telling of the story, there is a feeling that the author is doing as honest a job as he can.

I admire this book on so many levels. The drawing is almost crude, but carries huge emotions and meanings. The arrangement of frames on the pages creates telling emphases. Moving in and out of the present and the past is managed in ways that reinforce both.
Show Less
LibraryThing member fyrefly98
Summary: Maus is part memoir and part history lesson; about half Holocaust story, and half a tale of Spiegleman's relationship with his aging father, a Holocaust survivor. Art spends most of the book coaxing his father Vladek to talk to him about his life in Poland before WWII, his time in the
Show More
Jewish ghetto, and how he survived the concentration camps. All the while he must deal with not only the normal storm of emotions that come with having an aging, fallible parent, but also the added guilt that comes from knowing that parent survived one of the worst horrors of human history, when so many others did not.

Review: There are two things that, in my mind, elevate Maus from being just another Holocaust story to really being something unique, and something special. First, the decision to present the story in comic form, and second, the inclusion of the framing story of Art and his father. Both of those were risky choices that could easily have backfired, but in the end, I think both of them worked to Spiegleman's advantage.

On the first point: if nothing else, Maus deserves a huge amount of credit for proving that just because it's a comic does not necessarily mean that the story or the subject matter is trivial. The decision to depict everyone involved as animals (Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Polish are pigs, French are frogs, Americans are dogs, etc.) could have easily become silly and made everything inappropriately cutesy, but I think it actually allowed both Spiegleman and the reader to explore the horror of the story without being thoroughly overwhelmed, and while the characters were literally de-humanized, the underlying humanity of the story bled through on every page. The animalizing of the characters did make them all look somewhat alike - it's harder to draw hundreds of distinct-looking mice than it would be for humans - but it was always clear from the context what was going on, and who was supposed to be in the panel.

The meta-story, of Art dealing with his father, was another brave choice that worked out wonderfully well. Vladek Spiegleman is not a particularly pleasant man; he's so frugal that he's almost miserly, he fights constantly with his wife, has no qualms about emotionally manipulating his son, and is more than a little bit racist. At the same time, you just can't think those things about a Holocaust survivor - he's been through so much, shouldn't he be allowed to be difficult if he wants to be? By letting Vladek tell the story in his own voice, Art lets us wrestle with these issues for ourselves, and thus gives us an inside view on his own emotional struggles. It makes the book not just about surviving the Holocaust, but what it's like to deal with - and to be - a Holocaust survivor.

There were a few meta-meta-story bits that I'm still not sure whether I liked or not. Spiegleman, in the comic, talking about the process of writing the comic, or to his therapist about dealing with the success of the comic, etc. (on one occasion drawn as human but with a tied-on mouse mask) - on the one hand, these things all break the fourth wall and were kind of distracting, but on the other hand, they also add an interesting layer of complexity to the story.

Recommendation: Overall, it's an amazing book, if not a particularly comfortable one to read, and it's one that I suspect will stay with me for a long time, and that I think will convince even the most ardent graphic-novel hater that the medium can be used to powerful effect. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Nicole_16
Artie, the son, wants to retell the events of the holocaust from his father Vladek's, a Jew, point of view. Artie begins recording the story with pencil and paper and later figures out that it would be easier to record the story on tape. Artie's father Vladek reminisces on when life was good for he
Show More
and his family up to the time when Hitler wanted to clean Germany of the Jews and they were taken captive. This is an excellent story that takes you back in time to the horrible holocaust.

This will be a good book to use during history class. While studying the holocaust in history, a teacher could take parts of the book and make copies and ask the students how accurate the information is based on what they have learned. Most students will like this activity since the book is written with the use of comics. The pictures in the book will help the students comprehend the story better. On the other hand, this book can be used as a text-to-text connection. The teacher could use this book to compare it to the book "The Diary of Anne Frank". The students could be assigned to read both books and see what story they liked best and find the differences in each story while studying the Holocaust.

As a reader, I did not particularly like this book. The story line was good and informative, but I did not like reading the whole book in comic form. I would rather read this same book, but in a regular written book form. I believe Vladek was a very wise man and did all he could do to keep his family alive. Since only Vladek and his wife, out of his immediate family, survived, I believe this is the stress that eventually led to his wife's suicide. Also I think the author/ illustrator was very creative when he used the mice to represent the Jews, the cats to represent the Germans, the pigs to represent the Polish, and the dogs to represent the Americans. I feel that by using these animals he portrayed the totem pole of the races during this time. Overall the book was good, but I did not like ready a novel full of comics.
Show Less
LibraryThing member polarbear123
So many books out there about the Holocaust. What is the point of learning about the Holocaust? Can you become unemotional about it if you rea too much? Perhaps you can and I have certainly read a lot about the topic. However this book has renewed my emotional connection with that tragedy. I know
Show More
it sounds all a bit cheesy but perhaps the most important thing to learn about this time was the sheer randomness of surviving such horrors. This book probably gets it across more than any amount of historical writing could. For that reason alone I think it is an important book for students of History to read.
Show Less
LibraryThing member MeisterPfriem
This famous B.D. (“Comic“ – but nothing ‚comic‘ about it) of Art Spiegelman records dialogs with his father he had in the last 10 years of his life. Vladek Spiegelman (1906-1982), now living in the U.S.A., is recounting his early life as a prosperous polish Jew and how he survived
Show More
Auschwitz; we learn that Vladek’s wife, A.S.’s mother, also an Auschwitz survivor, killed herself in 1968; we learn that A.S.’s relationship with his father is not easy: how much is this due that surviving Auschwitz marked him for life? How much to the fact that the formative lives of father and son were in every respect different? An incident – Art’s wife gives a lift to a young black man – demonstrates to their despair Vladek’s racisms: how can he who has been persecuted because of racism, be still racist himself? But human nature is not that simple and not without contradictions and it is a fallacy to think that experiencing the horrors of the camps would make you a more compassionate person, sympathetic to the suffering of others – if that would be true then there would be a simple answer to make the Earth a better place!
A.S. gives animal identities to all persons according to their race: Jews are drawn as mice quoting Hitler saying that Jews are not human and a mid 30s German newspaper article claiming Mickey Mouse, that miserable vermin, to be the Jew’s ideal; the Germans become cats, the Polish pigs, the U.S. American dogs, a gipsy (Roma) woman becomes a butterfly, a Frenchman a frog. This stereotypes them (although ‘pigs’ are encountered that are good, others vicious) and removes any emotional response from their faces; at times a light-hearted note is created: Gipsy-butterfly, French-frog.
We get a glimpse of the conditions father and mother lived through but, by being narrated, once removed: perhaps the true horror of the camps can never been communicated (A.S. is aware of this of course). (I-16)
Show Less
LibraryThing member goose114
Maus tells the story of one Jewish man’s events in Poland during the rise and control of the Nazis. It really brings a personal insight into how Jews in Poland were affected and treated by the Nazis, eventually with the main character ending up in Auschwitz. The story is told by Artie, the son of
Show More
Vladek, as Artie interviews his father about his time during World War II. Vladek’s time in Poland is interlaid with the present while Artie is talking with his father about his past.

This was a very interesting story that told a personal story of struggle and survival. I liked that the Vladek’s past was told while telling his story in the present. It really made him come alive. I liked that the story was told through graphics because it gave a different level to a story like this. I never really felt connected with any of the characters though. There were times that I disliked every character. However, the story is an important one that warrants a read.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JapaG
One of the most widely known graphic novels. Spiegelmans writing is very direct and merciless (to his father and himself, as well as to many of the jew characters in the story). His art is not quite up to the par with his writing, but it somehow suits the bleak tale.
LibraryThing member lesleydawn
I had to read this set for a history course in college, and I refused to sell it back at the end of the term. It allows the reader to see the horror of the holocaust more honestly because as you are reading you are seeing animals, not people. Later, when you think about it, it's horrific. I would
Show More
recommend this book to anyone who wants to see the effect the holocaust had on one family.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Clurb
Maus is a traumatic and harrowing account of one man's experience of the Holocaust. The clever writing of the story in comic book form is done with insight and intellect. I defy anyone not to be moved by this novel.
LibraryThing member nicole_a_davis
A grim story, but told in an intersting way. I liked the use of different animals as different types of characters, and how they sometimes put on masks. I thought the drawing was a little weak--especially after seeing pp 100-103, which is a comic within the book; those illustrations were great and
Show More
very effective that I wish the whole book had been done in a similar style to those pages.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Farree
Nearly impossible to find these days, Voyager books on CD were made for HyperCard, a Macintosh app. This CD is amazing for the quantity of (pretty raw) Quicktime footage and sound files that are included. Spiegelman's depiction of his father's experience of the holocaust is intense and moving.
Show More
Having his interviews of his father and videos taken in Poland included with the text is like having a personal guide, and is disturbingly reminiscent of Virgil's role as guide in Dante's Inferno. This is not an easy or fun read but is well worth the effort.
Show Less
LibraryThing member MonicaAella
This was one of the first graphic novels I ever read, and it still remains one of my favorites. Incredibly compelling, I have to prevent myself from taking it off the bookshelf unless I have a large swath of hours to devote to reading. I remember first thinking the visuals seemed too stark, but I
Show More
was mistaken; they are perfect. Terrible, wonderful, and unflinchingly honest, I have and would recommend Maus to anyone.
Show Less
LibraryThing member SPutman
This two-part graphic novel is a Holocaust autobiography featuring white mice as Jews, cats as Nazis, and wartime Europe as an enormous mousetrap. Using a deeply personal, reflective and rhythmic tone, the author peels off the layers of a cast of well-developed characters, centralizing around a
Show More
Holocaust survivor and his son. The plot of this Pulitzer Prize winning narrative jumps between past and present with two storylines: one focusing on the Holocaust experience and one focusing on the father-son relationship. With its complex themes and unconventional format, Maus is a challenge to describe. Fiction, biography, autobiography and history, this work rises above genre to become an exceptionally unique work, an amazing story destined to become a classic. Despite being set in the Holocaust, what emerges from this comic-book masterpiece is a story of love, loyalty, and hope.
Show Less
LibraryThing member elleayess
I've known about this book for quite some time, but was very reluctant to read it as it is a graphic novel. Thankfully, my Santa-Thing felt that I should give it a look. I am pleased to report that I am glad he did. It is a very quick read, very moving and the seredipity of it makes it a
Show More
masterpiece. Don't cheat yourself by not reading it because you don't think it's important enough to read a graphic novel. You will be missing out on something you really wish you could experience.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JonArnold
How do you bring home the horror of a tragedy that’s been dulled by familiarity and the distance of time? Sure, you can tell a survivor’s story, as Spiegelman does here, you can even give it a family angle. But that’s not enough. Spiegelman’s twist of genius is to fuse the ideas of Hitler
Show More
and Disney, playing the Nazi portrayal of the Jews of subhuman against the Disney conception of mice as cute and sympathetic. Somehow, substituting innocent animals for humans does the impossible and brings home the horrors of the Holocaust – the burning mice portrayed twice in the second chapter of Part II is amongst the most disturbing images I can remember, certainly in a graphic novel. It’s a story that would have been diminished, less powerful in any other medium, the imagery equally as crucial to the success of the story as the words. And Spiegelman never resorts to gratuitous gimmicks to tell the story, instead the artwork and words used are kept as simple as possible. It’s therefore arguable that Maus is the most mature and intelligent use of comic storytelling yet seen.

We get not only an account of the horrors of the Nazi treatment of Jews but how it had lasting consequences too. Spiegelman carefully and subtly lays out how the Auschwitz ordeal left its mark, inevitably warping the survivors , through his portrayal of his father. Spiegelman’s father isn’t a particularly sympathetic protagonist, particularly as an old mouse. What we get is far better, a character who, despite being a mouse, is more human for all the flaws he demonstrates. Eschewing the simple option of a lovable, heroic narrator for a complex and flawed ‘human’ being is another brave move that emphasises the horror. A hero would, by nature, react heroically, a human being’s actions are more recognisable as the ones we probably would make, as opposed to the ones we’d hope we would make. It gives the persecuted a more recognisable face and character.

If there was a minor niggle I can’t say Spiegelman’s exploration of his difficult relationship with his father engaged me, it’s one of those elements that’s been worn into meaningless by overuse, particularly in American fiction. But it’s inextricably linked with the telling of the story, the device that allows him to frame the recollections and bring them to life.

In lesser hands the cocktail of cute animals, cannibalisation of family history and the horror of the Holocaust could have ended up seeming maudlin or exploitatitve. Instead, the strength of the storytelling and characterisation means it This is a story that simply wouldn’t have been half as powerful or effective in any other medium. In short, Maus is the single most powerful argument you’ll ever see for the graphic novel.
Show Less


Original language


Original publication date



0679406417 / 9780679406419


Page: 1.4191 seconds