Wednesday 26 January 2011

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Maus(A Survivor's Tale) by Art Spiegelman-Penguin books.

Maus tells, in pictures, the story of Art Spiegelman's parents and their experiences in World War 11 Warsaw and Auschwitz and then the USA. It also deals with Art's attempt to come to terms with his parents' experience.

This is a highly original book. A first reaction might be that to use a comic strip to tell the story of the Holocaust is strange in itself but there is nothing comic about this comic strip. The drawings and speeech bubbles are quirky but do nothing to take away from the seriousness of the story. In fact, because it is so different it allows the reader to approach the whole thing again almost as though it is the first time they were hearing the story.

Speigelman borrows an idea from Animal Farm and makes his characters into animals. The Jews are mice,the Germans cats,the Poles are pigs and the Americans dogs. Again this helps to make it a new story and removes any presupposed ideas the readers might have. Just occasionally he deviates from this and a photograph of the real human person is shown and this comes as an emotional shock when you turn the page and see it.

Occasionally in the post war section the characters are humans wearing animal masks rather than animals. This is never explained but leaves an impression of the next generation, including the media, trying to make sense of what has happened but posturing and falling into set stances instead.

a grim but unforgettable read.