The first time I discovered Art Spiegelman was when my friend and I were scouring for good books in a very chaotic warehouse in Cavite. I accidentally saw a tattered copy of Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale (the first book) and gave it to her —which I kind of regret because I normally wrestle for a book. It caught my attention and ever since then, I always wanted to get a copy—it was a forever marked-as-to-read in my Goodreads account because I can’t afford to buy a brand new copy (it isn’t exactly affordable because it costs P1,300/$30 each). Anyway, a friend from Goodreads, Miss Ronnie, messaged me once that she ordered a copy of The Complete Maus and she saw that it’s on my to-read pile… The rest is now history. See? It’s so good to have bookish friends!
This The Complete Maus is the twenty-fifth year anniversary edition and a compilation of the two books, Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II. It’s awesome that I’ll never have a problem when I’ll going to read the next book if Miss Ronnie’s copy is only the first book. Awesome fact about this is that MAUS is the first comic book to receive a Pulitzer Prize. Well, it’s a well-deserved one!
What’s MAUS all about? It’s a retelling of the World War II and the Holocaust by a survivor named Vladek Spiegelman. His son, Artie Spiegelman, is a cartoonist and interview his father about his life. He wants to capture what happened during the war and the Holocaust.
The first part of the book is entitled My Father Bleeds History (mid-1930s to winder of 1944). This was the part of the story where Vladek was forced to be part of the army when the war started, and how the romance between Vladek and Anja started.
The story isn’t exactly what you call a happy one because the story involved a lot of deaths—a family or not. There’s one part of the book that had a sudden shift in illustrations, it showed another comic created by Artie (the mouse character and the author himself—see? This book is so META), Prisoner on the Hell Planet: A Case History. This is the story about her mother, Anja. The how and why she committed suicide. It was so sad and too personal that it left me depressed for the rest of my night shift (yep, I was able to read it while working). I mean, I understood why. Anja was a fragile woman and that was the effect of the Holocaust on her.
The next part is the second book, And Here My Troubles Began, which is the full account of Vladek-Anja story during the Holocaust. They were separated for a long time and it was a miracle how they able to see each other in the camps (the prisoners are hundreds of thousands!). This isn’t just romance about them, it’s also an illustration of the horror and chaos during that time. It’s so cruel that it made me felt so uneased, depressed, and sad about the victims of the Holocaust. I can’t forget how specific and detailed Spiegelman about the history. Those Nazis hurting and killing the Jews just for the fun of it. I can’t believe how one Nazi soldier slammed one child against the wall just to silence his crying. It is just too much! Another one was the fact about the gassing at Auschwitz concentration camp. It is so inhumane! Art Spiegelman perfectly portrayed history through his pen. I’m not really familiar about the history of the Holocaust—it is something that I avoid just because I’m sort-of touchy and sensitive when it comes to killing God’s people (the chosen people, the Israelites or the Jews)—it’s also the subject that is too fragile to talk about. Anyway, I love how I learned good history with comic strips as a medium. This book is such an amazing read.
“Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed… Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal… Away with Jewish brutalization of the people! Down with Mickey Mouse! Wear the Swastika Cross!” —newspaper article, Pomerania, Germany, mid-1930s
The Germans as the cats (who kills mices), the Poles as pigs, the French as frogs. Spiegelman used minimalistic and simple cartoon strips (which reminds me of Jeffrey Brown’s—I read his memoirs first but Spiegelman is definitely the first. These books were published from 1980 to 1991) to portray the history of the Holocaust, but the message is deep and real enough to feel the guilt (for those who didn’t experience the Holocaust and living a really good life now).
Here’s a picture of Vladek Spiegelman :)
It’s hard to classify the book in one genre. It crosses over fiction, history, memoir, autobiography, or mixed of those, but this is definitely a great experience!