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The Complete MausThe Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A truly remarkable book – unique and refreshing and incredibly meaningful. It is a story of the Holocaust, but it is more: It is also the story of a man and his father, coming to terms with that terrible chapter in history. In fact at times, the Holocaust is the backdrop to the pressing personal conflict between Art and Vladek Spiegelman. This is what makes Maus so unique and so different; it shows a different side to the Holocaust, the side of children coming to terms with their parent’s ordeal.

The depth of meaning juxtaposed in the comic anthropomorphic concept is incredible. We are brought to the lowest pit of despair, wallow in the tragic insanity of the Holocaust, then are yanked suddenly out to experience the humor, sad irony, and tenderness of Vladek’s current life. The pacing is breathtaking, and this contrast puts the Holocaust in the realm of actual, ordinary reality: It happened to actual, ordinary people with our problems and our humor and our kind of life. It helps make the Holocaust approachable and, to some extent, relatable.

In all, Maus is decidedly human, it seems, in spite of the anthropomorphism. We see tenderness in deft touches, guilt and sadness. It all sparks of reality. The literary fourth wall is broken throughout the book: the narrator Art Spiegelman speaks of this very book in the making. And midway through, we see Art the author experience the trauma and pain of approaching the subject of Auschwitz. Somehow, knowing the author’s conflict in writing about the Holocaust does much to show the personal nature of its horror and hardship.

This is a book that grabs your attention. Its characterization, allusions, and meanings are all quietly, yet powerfully conveyed. The best literature defies categorization, and Maus, which found itself no conclusive category in the Pulitzer Prize it so incredibly deserved, fits the description aptly. Indeed, Maus is a richness beyond words.

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