Title: Maus: A Survivor’s Tale I: My Father Bleeds History & II: And Here My Troubles Began
Author: Art Spiegelman
Series: Maus: A Survivor’s Tale 1 & 2
Pages: 159/ 136
This review is for Maus book 1 and 2.
Maus is a comic that tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman who survived the Holocaust. The story is drawn by his son, who is trying to come to terms with his father, his fathers history and actions, and the history of his people. Spiegelman tells his father’s story in cartoon form with the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats.
The first book (My Father Bleeds History) takes place between the mid 1930s to the winter of 1944. We learn about Vladek’s job, his marriage, the birth of his first son, and the steps that their families took to stay together during the beginning of the war. The story jumps back and forth between the past in Poland to the present in Rego Park, New York, where Art is learning his father’s history for this book. This comic is not just Vladek’s and his wife Anja’s story, it is also Art’s story of his rocky relationship with his father. By the end of part one, Vladek and Anja are deported to Auschwitz.
In Part II, we learn about Vladek’s time in Auschwitz, the jobs he took to survive, the march out of Auschwitz, being transported to other camps, and finally his freedom. His story was a harrowing one filled with horrors yet he still found the will to survive and go on. Because this memoir was in a graphic novel format I found it more accessible and impactful, especially with the characters being cats and mice. It showed the harshness of what the Jews went through during the Holocaust but wasn’t traumatic, just educational.
I think the best thing about this story was that the author didn’t try to hide or gloss over the difficult relationship he had with his father. They are shown as human beings and that makes them realistic and relatable. It showed Vladek’s struggle of hoarding things and his sons’ struggle with dealing with his obsessive and confrontational father. I do wish that we had gotten Anja’s story though.
This wasn’t an easy read but I do think it was worth it. It shows a different perspective of the Holocaust and how it affected the survivors after the war, and their children. The few memoir’s I have read have discussed only the war and what happened to them, not what happened afterwards so I think this comic gives a great perspective on that.
Trigger Warnings: antisemitism, suicide, depression, death, genocide, starvation, violence, death of children, racism