A story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father's story and history itself.
Spiegelman, a stalwart of the underground comics scene of the 1960s and '70s, interviewed his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor living outside New York City, about his experiences. The artist then deftly translated that story into a graphic novel. By portraying a true story of the Holocaust in comic form--the Jews are mice, the Germans cats, the Poles pigs, the French frogs, and the Americans dogs--Spiegelman compels the reader to imagine the action, to fill in the blanks that are so often shied away from. Reading Maus, you are forced to examine the Holocaust anew.
This is neither easy nor pleasant. However, Vladek Spiegelman and his wife Anna are resourceful heroes, and enough acts of kindness and decency appear in the tale to spur the reader onward (we also know that the protagonists survive, else reading would be too painful). This first volume introduces Vladek as a happy young man on the make in pre-war Poland. With outside events growing ever more ominous, we watch his marriage to Anna, his enlistment in the Polish army after the outbreak of hostilities, his and Anna's life in the ghetto, and then their flight into hiding as the Final Solution is put into effect. The ending is stark and terrible, but the worst is yet to come--in the second volume of this Pulitzer Prize-winning set. --Michael Gerber
I disagree with people who say Polish people are portrayed negatively in this book, aside from the fact that he portrays them as pigs. Most of the Poles in this book were nice-they hide in the house of a Polish lady, there housekeeper is Polish. Of course, at one point you have Polish people being anti-semitic but what do you expect? No Poles actually hurt the Spiegelman's, though they do occaisonally put them in jeopardy by yelling that there is a Jew in the yard. I think the animals are meant to portray stereotypes. Vladek has disdain for the Poles, and Art shows that by making them pigs. That doesn't mean that the Poles are bad, that's just how Vladek is.
Boy, was I was wrong. MAUS is not only a an amazing use of the comic idiom-an affecting chronicle of what is surely THE most uncomical event in the 20th Century-it is also a gripping and psychologically astute portrait of a family tottering on the sizable wake of that event.
Art Spiegelman has managed to create something equally important and entertaining with MAUS. If you've been scared away by the heaviness of the subject matter, don't let yourself be. It's heavy, for sure, but it's also a great bit of storytelling.