21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2007
I haven't read many graphic novels, but I am decently well-read otherwise, and my knowledge of the Holocaust would be above the average person's, but not phenomenal. Given that background, and all that I had read about Maus, I was expecting a "tour de force" that would make at least a minor dent on my reading career. That, unfortunately, was not to be, and while I finished the book feeling that the time spent on it was definitely well spent, the book is already fading in my memory.
Maus tells the tale of an artist who decides to write a comic book based on his Father's recount of the Holocaust, which, in fact, is what the author is doing based on his own Father's experiences. The book spans about 4 decades from the mid-thirties to the seventies, covering the pre-WWII period to the time when the author is actually exploring the past with his Father and writing this book. There are two stories intertwined marvelously in this book: a first-hand survivor's experience of life before, during, and after the Holocaust, and that of a relationship between an ageing Father and young-to-middle aged son who have a serious disconnect.
The two stories could actually have been written independently, but it is their excellent juxtaposition which is one of the clear highlights of the book, for it has a multiplier affect on the poignancy of both the Father's and the Son's situations. Each of the stories themselves is well crafted, managing to weave together a bunch of incidents across points in time to create a very smoothly flowing narrative. I was particularly impressed by the telling of the Father-Son relationship, for it manages to pick and show very small events which we know can cumulatively build up to create tremendous long-term frustration, but are almost never able to remember, or recount effectively, or demonstrate the impact of, either to ourselves or to others. Art picks his moments beautifully, and even though the setting is completely different, I felt that I could completely empathize with him (as I am sure my Parents would be able to with his Father!)
The recount of the Holocaust had less of an impact on me, possibly because I was familiar enough with the nature of the incidents, if not a particular man's plight. The exploration of the atrocities was done in a very straight-forward, linear, and almost journalistic fashion (which is somewhat understandable given Art's leanings.) Consequently, while it was still somewhat horrific to revisit these heinous crime scenes, the impact was diminished as there was nothing different in the story. As a contrast, think of the film "Life is Beautiful", and you'll understand how a difference in the storyline or presentation style can significantly enhance the poignancy and impact even when lesser time is spent on the war crimes themselves.
The artwork in the book is average, although it does have it moments of brilliance. The most impactful choice of course is that of portraying people from different nationalities in different and appropriate animal forms e.g. Jews as mice and Germans as cats.
Overall, I would definitely recommend reading the book, but with a lowered set of expectations than one would normally develop upon reading the reams of extreme praise that have been showered upon this book. Keep that in mind, and I am quite confident you will find the book a very worthwhile reading experience.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2005
Imaginative...shocking...brilliant. As the title so cleverly suggests, I could go on for days raving about this book. Having clearly thrown my objectivity out the window, let me tell you why Art Speigelman's Maus is the best thing to happen to comix since sliced bread.
Although Maus is written in comic strip format, Spiegelman does everything he can to subvert our assumptions about the medium. There are few, if any, character `thought bubbles;' there is little emphasis on humour and witty exchanges. This is a serious book about a serious subject: the holocaust. As Spiegelman himself notes in the book (I am paraphrasing here), "how can a comic strip, a medium historically dismissed as nothing more than `the funnies,' capture the horror and pathos of the attempted extermination of an entire race of people?" The great achievement of the book is that not only does it meet this lofty challenge, I honestly can't think of another medium that could have better captured the spirit of those times. Spiegelman's skilful use of illustration adds a layer of irony to the story, and demonstrates the pathos that underscored the rise of Nazi Germany. Particularly interesting is that people of differing backgrounds appear as animals. There is the obvious binary where Germans are depicted as cats and Jews as mice (the text quotes a disturbing German Nazi-era editorial equating Jews with the flea-ridden mouse). Among others, Poles appear as pigs, the French as frogs (problematic, to say the least, although Spiegelman tries to justify this by pointing out instances of French hostility towards Jews), and Americans as dogs. The reasons why certain animals symbolize certain countries or ethnicities is not explained, neither whether ethnicity and nationhood are essentially the same construct. There are some great images where Jews wear masks of other animals to disguise their true identities.
I can't recommend this enough. I have had friends and family uninterested with the graphic novel genre read Maus, and they have universally loved it. The book treats the Holocaust in a novel and startlingly original way. The narrative is quite a coup for the comix genre, as Maus powerfully demonstrates that graphic novels need not have Captain American or Charlie Brown to be read and enjoyed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2015
Yes, it's a comic book about the Holocaust. With mice as the main characters.
Of course, it's not a comic book in the traditional sense, although it's written and illustrated in that format. The first volume of Art Spiegelman's "Maus: A Survivor's Tale" was one of the works that helped popularize the term "graphic novel" in the 1980s, dignifying what had been considered a rather cheap and childish form of entertainment as a medium of genuine literary potential. Then again, "Maus" isn't exactly a novel, either, since it's a basically faithful retelling of the history of Spiegelman's own parents, Polish Jews who came to America after surviving Auschwitz. Cartoonist Jules Feiffer found it hard to put into words what, exactly, his fellow artist had done: his review of "Maus" describes it as "at one and the same time a novel, a documentary, a memoir, and a comic book." When it came to his opinion, however, he didn't have to struggle at all: "Brilliant, just brilliant."
To any reader with even the slightest acquaintance with Holocaust literature, the story of Vladek and Anja Spiegelman will be all too familiar: a happy home life marred by the looming specter of war, a struggle to survive as homes and businesses are confiscated, individual acts of betrayal and heroism, the weeks in hiding, the eventual deportation, separations and reunions, liberation at last. (These aren't spoilers, by the way - Spiegelman sets out for us pretty clearly from the beginning how his parents' story is going to unfold.) Somehow, though, it all feels painfully new, freshly intimate. Spiegelman's decision to depict characters of different races and nationalities as different species of animal (technically human bodies with animal heads and tails, rather than anthropomorphized animals), as uncomfortable as it seems at first, lends an air of abstraction to the work that underscores the absurdity and enormity of the familiar facts of history.
"Maus" is a story of survival, and of determination and resourcefulness, and of the sheer tenacity of human life. It's also a love story - perhaps a small handful of love stories - and the story of a father and son. Spiegelman sets the family history into a deceptively simple frame meta-story, in which he sits down with the now-elderly Vladek to record his recollections with the intention of making them into a comic book. "Maus" appears almost to write itself before the reader's eyes: we are invited to share in the author's thought processes, to weigh the consequences of his artistic choices, to consider with him the appropriateness of writing - or reading - a Holocaust story for, on some level at least, entertainment purposes. Spiegelman shares some poignant insights into the experiences of children of survivors, a generation spared the material horrors but living forever in their shadow. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment, however, is the character of Vladek himself: a cantankerous, miserly old man whom we come to regard with affection, even as we cringe along with his son at some of his more outrageous antics.
"Maus" is a haunting book that tugs on every heartstring, but without the slightest hint of melodrama or sentimental trickery: its emotion is hard-won and well-earned. Don't let the unconventional format deter you - this is a book well worth reading.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2008
I'm Jewish--and 72 years old--but my families have been here for several generations, so I didn't have to experience any of it, except from a great distance (and as a 5 to 10 year old). I only recently became aware that some Jews will not read any book, or see and film, relating to the Holocaust,--because they can't stand to.
O.K. Maybe Maus isn't the best place to start. But for those of us who are curious as to how it really was, without any sugar coating, and without having our noses rubbed in it, it is very good. We do not have to SMELL or TASTE the camps; we do not have to see rotting corpses, mice do not have very expressive faces. It is the story of a survivor--through no fault, he stresses, of his own!--told in American speech, frequently organized in Yiddish word order, frequently punctuated by Spiegelman's own speech, and that of his wife. We learn, from a very personal story, of everything that happened to Art's father, without having to be afraid of turning the page. It is very honest. He does indeed "bleed history." And sometimes the blood is funny as well.
There is never any question of "Well, why didn't they get out, while they could?" You do what your country tells you to do, and by the time you realize you are a prisoner of war (Art's father was briefly in the Polish army), and that this involves being treated like a non-human, it's too late.
Vladek is very good at "organizing" things--eggs, chocolate, seeing his wife, finding hiding places--but had he once been caught by the wrong people, at the wrong time, with thre wrong things in his hands or speaking to the wrong people about the wrong things, there would be no Art Spiegelman.
"I was friendly to everyone--the prisoners, the Kapos, the Nazis--if you want to stay alive, it's good to be friendly."
A man, who was one of the first Allies to see Belsen-Belsen, nobody knowing what to expect, says that there were piles and piles of corpses, and on top of them, sometimes under them, were a few semi-living human beings. The first thing many of these tried to do, he says, stifling a sob, was to free their hands, and raise two fingers, "they tried to do the victory thing, you know," he says, wiping tears from his eyes. "Sorry," he says. This man is apologizing for crying at the memory of his first sight of Belsen-Belsen.
But somehow, it is very important that Spiegelman does not cry. A good graphic book should not cry, It should report. This one does.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2013
I do love books and graphic novels a lot, but if it wasn't for my English class i would have never thought to read this book. Mostly because its about WW2 and the holocaust and Blah blah blah, didn't care. But cause i had to read it, I automatically changed my mind about it. Its a really good story, the art is creative, I mean the Jewish are mice and the Germans are cats and the Polish are pigs! I was amazed by the story, because once you pick it up, you don't want to set it down. Its Very amazing, I really recommend this book to anyone. And I'm supper glad that I bought it. :)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2013
It's hard to believe how we human beings can treat each other.
This is the first book that I've ever read about the Holocaust, and I wish that I've done so sooner.
It was really hard to read this book. I thought I could sit down and finish it under two to three hours, but it was hard to take in and this is a graphic book.with every page, I just wanted the madness to end, but it kept going on. I just didn't think someone could go through so much and come out alive. Part of this book almost made me cry. I'm not afraid to say that.
on May 3, 2014
When they say this is one of the best comic books ever, they really mean it's one of the best. I happen to agree putting this right up there with Watchmen and Sandman. Maus provokes you to think differently about things. Everyone who reads comics needs to read this comic at some point or at least have proper knowledge of the tale.
One of the biggest reason I loved this is because I normally don't like reading Holocaust stories. It's not because they are too depressing or terrifying to read, but more on the line of how they are told. Usually they are all told the same way. This one is different though. There is a happy conclusion to tragic tale and with a normal outcome. In addition, this doesn't just focus on the Jewish in the camps either. If feel, at least, that so many people often forget the Nazi's locked up the French and Polish Catholics as well. This comic book shows that several time making them both allies and enemies to the Jewish.
Another strong point to the comic and what it's most famous for is the usage of anthropomorphic animals to tell the story of the Holocaust. Having some Polish bod myself, I can see there is some predigest of having them depicted as pigs in this comic book. However, that's the point of the book and why the Polish are pigs. The Jewish are mice because they were small and meek. The Germans are cats because they toy and eat mice. The Americans are dogs, the French are fogs, the Swedish are reindeer, and the Gypsies are moths. We may be humans, but we're all animals deep inside.
My only complaint to this book was it took me longer to read then most comic books. Most of the time I can finish them in two days with five to six issue trades. Even ten issue thing I can finish with in three days. This just took me long because it’s so rich in text and information it a lot to grasp. The father is hard to understand at times too. However, don’t let this be a bad thing. In fact, I really liked the fact I’m finding more challenging comics to read. Modern day stuff has really dumbed down compared to the 80s stuff.
I should have read this comic before. It was recommend by a tutor I had at college because of a short story I wrote about a bulldog and previous stories I wrote using animals to tell my "human" story. I’m glad I read this one though. It will defiantly change your view on what a good comic actually means.
on February 15, 2014
The story was very well crafted. The book is a story told by the author's father to the author. The author is creating this very story at the time he is taking notes on the story his father is telling him. An ingenious method for passing on these details. By telling the story in this method the author is able to relay to the reader more details than those just in the father's story. He is able to also give details about how life was for his father after the war - this is seen in their interactions and conversations. I'm not a big fan of the comic concept of relaying the story and I don't think it added any value to the story, but I also must admit it did not subtract from the story or prove a distraction. This book is a quick read - this physical book contains both Maus I & II. Each part is further divided into chapters. The book is not written in flawless English; it is written in broken English in some parts however this did not subtract from the story either. The book is detailed in how it describes the events of the Holocaust and those leading up to it, but it does not seem to attempt to be extra gory for the purpose of making a point. The details were presented in a very unbiased and mater of fact fashion. Owing to the graphic novel style of this text however there are some accompanying images to the detailed stories that some may find disturbing - though the images are not photographs for the most part and are not too detailed in their depiction of gruesome events. The book may have been more powerful with real images, since so many exist. All in all a good read for educational purposes. The book encompasses before, during, and after the war and is a good introduction to a study of the Holocaust. Enough terms and names of people and places are mentioned so you could look up additional information after wards or suspend your reading here.
on February 5, 2014
Maus is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Art Spiegelman narrating a smidgen of the experiences suffered by his father Vladek Spiegelman a Jewish prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. The story is divided in two books the first being My Father Bleeds History, where the characters are introduced and a great deal of detailed information is exposed by the protagonist’s recollections of the afflictions he endured before, during, and after the war. The second book And Here My Troubles Began, is the continuation of these recollections about the war, life within the prison camps, and life after the war. It is interesting to see how the author exposes his father’s mannerisms and frame of mind, while illustrating the reasons those mannerisms surfaced, and can be easily dignified, even though the author himself is obviously troubled by them.
Vladek Spiegelman was definitely a survivor in its most visceral definition, always adroitly finding new ways to see another day, and taking care of those who helped him along the way. The book also demonstrates that a great deal of luck, evil, servitude, and compassion were present during the time of war, and in many cases life or death was presented depending on how people dealt with unfavorable circumstances.
The graphic novel is distinctively illustrated in black and white; the author uses animals to depict different races, the Jews portrayed as mice, the Germans as cats, Americans as dogs and so on. The art -work does not constitute of beautiful detailed renderings as one would see in regular comics, but are masterfully done so in order to attain a greater level of heartfelt emotions, immersing the reader in the events taking place as one becomes a witness to a little piece of history recollected by one man.
Many have heard, and, or read stories about the Holocaust, Maus allows for one more depiction of history, but this time through the eyes of someone who was there, and experienced firsthand what one reads in history books. Although one may be aware of facts and situations that took place inside the prison camps, reading it and seeing the illustrations will have a deeper effect on whoever is reading this piece of art history. It is interesting to see how people react in the worst situations, whether they were prisoners, guards, or neither as one will read about it. Maus is a reality check for life and choices, as well as a great observation into people’s thoughts and expectations, but mostly into one’s will to survive in face of so much antagonism and despair.
on November 23, 2013
Maus is a marvelous, tragic retelling of one man's memory of Nazi occupation during WWII. The story is told with a dichotomy that instantly captured my attention. The dichotomy between the serious war story and the light-hearted father-son dynamic made the story more accessible. Like Vladek throwing Artie's coat out, or any of the many other instance similar. There was also quite a bit of Vladek and his second wife, Mala's, personal bickering. It just made for an infinitely more personal, and relatable tale. The use of animal figures as metaphors was almost a nonfactor. The characters could not have been more real.
It depressed me to see the conditions these poor people were forced into. They were prisoners in their own countries. The image of the hanging Jews was especially saddening to me. At times I felt like Arties was rather unappreciative of all his parents had suffered through, but I appreciated his honesty as an author. He could have easily left out much of the personal details, but he opted for an all-encompassing story, despite the light it may have shed on he and his father. It was odd to know the fates of Artie's parents well before arriving at those portions of the story, but it added a depth to the story that I cannot explain. His mother committing suicide and his father dying of heart failure were sad moments for me, even though they took place well after the main time period of the story.
The comic strip detailing Artie's reaction to his mother's suicide was also extremely unsettling. The panel where Arties reflects on his multitude of emotions towards his mother was reminiscent of the panel in "I Saw It" when Keiji reacted to his own mother's passing. Vladek's penny-pitching reminded me greatly of my own grandfather, and so did his decline into more frantic senility. My grandfather went through similar stages towards the end of his long life, so it was extremely relatable for me. The difference is that we understand Vladek's tendency to want to save all he could because of the harsh impoverished conditions he lived through.
There were a couple of touching quotes I jotted down. One was, 'Reality is too complex for comics." The author, Artie Spiegelman, wrote that. It is a clear indication of his uncertainty towards how the outside world would respond to his long, hard work. Another quote that caught my attention was by Artie's father, Vladek. He said, "But God didn't come. We were all on our own." It showed a sense of loss, in my opinion. I am unsure how religious or faithful he was prior to the events of the story, but that quote said to me that he had given up on that frame of mind. It was clear that if he was to survive it would be by his own doing.