on December 9, 2002
"Maus: My Father Bleeds History" is a very interesting book. It is written in a way not many books are. The comic book outline is very unique. It is like a comic book within itself. The thing is that this is not a comical story. The story is about the Holocaust. Another interesting aspect about this story are the main characters. They are animals. The Jews are are mice, the Poles are the pigs, and the Germans are the cats.
Art Spieglman is the son of Vladek Spieglman, a Holocaust survivor. He is also a survivor in life. Art is a comic book artist who is writing about his father's life as a Jew in World World 2 Europe. Vladek's hardships and the mistreatment of the Jews are hard at times to read and the illustrations make the story feel much more real. The struggles of trying to survive, not knowing who is your friend or enemy, and the personal relationships between the characters, make this a memorable story.
This book is good for anyone who likes history and a personal story. I recommend this to anyone who doesn't want to do a lot of reading. The things people go through in extraordinary circumstances make you think what you might go through if you were faced with those same problems. Basically this book makes you think. Which is a good thing, because for me that means it's good.
On a scale of 1-5, I give this story a 4.5.
on September 25, 2002
Maus could have garnered four stars alone for its brilliant concept: chronicling the horrors of the Holocaust via a symbolic cartoon with animals as the protagonists and antagonists. However, the story is so deftly told, and is so much more (ironically) human in the way it weaves the writer's life into his father's narrative, that it transcends works defined as merely good. The grim drawings and non-human nature of the characters in some ways muffles the barbarism of Nazi Germany, and in other ways intensifies it. Scary indeed is the fairy tale in which the subjects' carefree, halcyon lives are turned upside down in a ever-worsening parade of appalling acts.
The book's pace is perfect, and gives you insight into the way small denials of the Jews' freedoms, and tiny restrictions upon their liberties, gave rise to increasingly graver orders. You witness the hearty resiliency of the Jews as they resign their Fate to each event that befalls them, only to see the picture get bleaker with each day. The author's father Vladek (and story's main character) loses his first born and an endless succession of jobs and friends, and is ultimately separated from his wife (Anja) as the Jews as herded up and marched away from their homes. He contracts disease and is subjected to abominable physical labor and deprivation of food, yet somehow presses on and refuses to be defeated. Most fascinating about this book is the way Vladek continually escapes certain doom- he instantly acquires and/or fakes job skills that are needed by the Germans; he forges the right alliances with non-Jews; he selects the right hiding spots and patiently outwits his captors. You are needless to say rooting for him the whole time.
The book has a little of everything: it is funny in parts, particularly in scenes when the author suffers his Dad's eccentricities and cheapness in order to glean some narrative along the way. It is heartbreakingly tragic throughout- for instance, there is a fascinating "comic within a comic" that mysteriously alludes to the Spiegleman's descent into depression and rage; and Vladek is miraculously reunited with his wife after the Holocaust, only to lose her to suicide. It is an amazing commentary in that an animal tale perfectly illustrates what it meant to be Jewish during the 30s and 40s- and what it means to be human now.
on August 22, 2002
I was a little hesitant to get this book. I remember hearing it was great in middle school, but it took me about 9 years after that to remember it, and finally hunt it down on Amazon.
The holocaust isn't one of my favorite topics. I come from a primarily German heritage, and even though I was born in the states, I recall many times being teased about how my people were Nazi's and things like that. So anything on this topic kind of irks me out of association.
2 pages in and I forgot all about it. Art did a great job with the story. It was really easy to relate to the emotions of the mice (Jews) in the story. I didn't even see them as mice in the illustrations. The realism conveyed was astounding. I just couldn't stop reading it. I think I finished it the second day, and the only reason it lasted that long was because I forced myself to save some for later.
All I can say is buy this book, and consider the 2 book set. It's great reading for any mature child and anyone upwards in age from there. However, it's obviously not a pleasant topic, so be warned. I've reserved this one a permanent slot on my bookshelf.
on July 15, 2002
I did not choose to read "Maus: A Survivor's Tale." In fact, I was required to read it for a college course on Young Adult Literature. Having to read a book selected by SOMEONE ELSE is usually NOT as exciting as choosing your OWN book, but with "Maus," things actually worked out well. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed reading it.
"Maus" was not the greatest book ever written, but it had its' merits. If I were a Young Adult reader, I think I'd enjoy its' unique, "comic-book" style. It's very visual, which I believe many students would find fascinating and attention-keeping, not to mention just plain helpful (in following the storyline and bridging the words written to what they see in pictures). For these reasons, I think "reluctant readers" would enjoy this, as well as other similarily styled, books.
Another great quality of "Maus" was that it told a somewhat FAMILAR story (accounts of the Holocaust) in a NEW format. Spiegelman uses mice, cats and pigs in place of people. The symbolism of this intent is fairly effective. Also, again, hearing about such a important part of history in a UNIQUE, interest-grabbing format is likely to cause students to retain its' invaluable concepts (oppression, need for tolerance, evil of hate, etc).
If I were to criticize "Maus," I'd have to say the flashing back and forth was at times, distracting and difficult to follow. Usually it worked well, but sometimes I found that it took away from the flow of the storyline.
In conclusion, I found "Maus" to be a surprisingly interesting book; and one I would recommend to students for the above mentioned reasons.
on May 31, 2002
Art is struggling to come to terms with his mother's suicide, and so he sets out to extract from his father (Vladek), the account of his life with his first wife Anja (Arts mother). Vladek and Anja were survivors of the Holocaust, and through the oral retelling of their story, Art is able to piece together the facts that led to this tragic event in his life. The comic book form offers a unique literary approach and appeals to a large age group from middle school to adults.
The author is the narrator as he interviews his father, Vladek, day after day, and uses juxtapose as he tells the story of past events alongside current events, involving relationships with Vladek and his second wife, Mala. Art and Mala are disturbed by Vladeks behavior, which epitomizes the racist caricature of the "miserly old Jew." Maus: A Survivor's Tale, My Father Bleeds History is a fascinating account of historical events that happened in the lives of one family and the people they came in contact with, before, during, and after the Holocaust, and culminates with a sequel, Maus II: A Survivor's Tale, And Here My Troubles Began. The book has won several literary awards including the 1986 National Book Critics Circle prize in biography, and a Pulitzer Prize for Special Awards and Citations. Although Maus has been classified as fiction because of the lack of footnotes and bibliographic references, there is no doubt that Art Speigelman has an ingenius approach to the recording of historical, and factual events of the past.
on May 19, 2002
When a comic book wins the Pulitzer Prize, you know something's up. Not to mention my first reading of this book was in my comparative literature class in college. Maus is not just another comic book.
Maus is the true story of the author's family's struggle with the holocaust. His father directly surviving it, and the author struggling with what it has done to his family after the fact. The story is brilliantly told through the eyes of Art (the author) interviewing his father, Vladek.
At once intimate and personal, Art also pulls you away from the terror by depicting everyone as animals. The Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Americans dogs and the Poles are pigs. This contrast of a direct account told through the veil of puppetry creates some interesting situations and allows Art to tell the story in a way no other format could allow. This ploy was genius in its own way.
You can't help but become emotional with the characters. You'll feel pity for Vladek and frustration for/against Art. Never before have I grown so attached to comic characters.
Anyway, the bottom line is just read this book. Even if comics aren't your thing. The fact that this book is illustrated and uses speech bubbles is it's only tie to the world of cheesy super heroes and monsters.
on March 6, 2002
The most common complaint against this book is the choice of pigs for the Christian Poles. Rather than analyze the book for its merits, these people jump to a rash, emotional decision based on illusions about pigs. Why do pigs eat slop? Because that's what the farmers feed them. Why do pigs cover themselves in mud? To keep cool, just like the hippopotamous and elephant and any number of larger mammals. Speigelman simply needed a common animal divorced of any relationship with cats and mice. No dogs, no rodents, and to keep scale, no large mammals like horses or bears.
The other problem people have is with historical inaccuracies or a lack of scope. But this is not a history of the Holocaust, it's the story of one man. This, though, is one of the most moving Holocaust stories I've read, not because of the emotion of the events itself, but because of the interaction between survivor and son. It's the psychology of Vladek that makes this a compelling story. I constantly felt angry at both Vladek and Art for their insensitivities to others, but at the same time, I understood how their circumstances led to their personalities.
on February 8, 2002
This is certainly a very interesting piece of work. I struggle with trying to classify the book because it seems a combination of many types of literature. The layout is like that of a comic strip yet there's nothing humorous about the subject matter. Written like a novel but an actual life account. "Maus . . ." is the first illustrated book I've ever read and I find the use of cartoons actually enhanced the narrative. In "Maus . . ." the author steps outside himself to tell the story of his father's life during the Holocaust. The cartoons are an excellent way to reinforce the power differential among the characters. Spiegelman portrays the Nazis as cats, Jews as mice and non-Jew Poles as pigs. Through these character lenses, the author provides a very moving account of his father's experience while not risking the chance of loosing those who don't want to read a serious or depressing book (I find this one to be neither). The drawings were distracting enough to not overwhelm me with the horrors of the Holocaust yet interesting enough to keep me reading. This is a good read for all ages and should certainly go a long way in educating children on a significant aspect of world history. It's a short, fast read that delivers so much information for so little reading effort. A creative well executed effort on the part of Spiegelman and an enjoyable reading experience for the reader.
on November 7, 2001
As a history and literature major, I wrote my senior thesis on Maus and Maus II because, after reading them for a class, I couldn't stop thinking about them. The imagery, both drawn and implied, was masterful. Each panel tells the story of the Holocaust as SOMEONE REMEMBERS IT. Spiegelman took his father's story and graphically interpreted it in an incredibly moving way. He did not write a work of historical fact (for whatever those books are worth anyway - even history is a work of memory and interpretation). I love these graphic novels for what they are - brilliant literature and testimony.
I was looking over some of these reviews of Maus because I am going to see Spiegelman speak this weekend and just wanted to know what others had said in the past. I was disheartened to read some of the negative responses to the use of animal caricatures, especially since I have always felt this was the most ingenius part of the works. Looking at these reviews, though, I remembered an interview with Spiegelman I read a while back. He explains the animal caricatures a bit, and I thought it might be beneficial to place a quote here, in this forum.
Published in The Comics Journal, October 1991:
Spiegelman says of the animal portrayals,
"These images are not my images. I borrowed them from the Germans. At a certain point I wanted to go to Poland, and I had to get a visa. I put in my application, and then I got a call from the consul. He said 'the Polish attache wants to speak with you.' And I knew what he wanted to talk to me about. On the way over there, I tried to figure out what I was going to say to him. 'I wanted to draw noble stallions, but I don't do horses very well?' When I got there, he gave me the perfect opening. He said, 'You know, the Nazis called us schwein' (German for pig). And I said, 'Yes, and they called us vermin (German for mouse or rat).'
Ultimately, what the book is about is the commonality of human beings. It's crazy to divide things down the nationalistic or racial or religious lines. And that's the whole point, isn't it? These metaphors, which are meant to self-destruct in my book - and I think they do self-destruct - still have a residual force that allows them to work as metaphors, and still get people worked up over them."
I guess he's right. People do get worked up over the metaphors. Too bad some of those people can't understand them. If you haven't read Maus, you are missing a true piece of art.
on October 18, 2001
I am not a big fan of comic books. I only picked up Spiegelman's Maus because it was recommended to me by a friend. Never have I been so happy to follow someone's advice.
Maus is one of the most powerful and engaging war tale I've read thus far. It's very touching and emotional. A young men is interviewing his father in order to make a comic book out of his experience of being a Jew during the 2nd World War. We hear the father's story as he recalls how he hid with his wife during the war, how his wife's family was murdered, how his son was taken from him and then killed, how he was brought to a concentration camp and seperated from his wife to live in fear and misery.
The drawings are crude and simple. The jews are portrayed as being mice and the Germans are pigs. But the power behind the tale is the story itself. It is so touching that you cannot help but care for the story's characters. I never thought a comic book could be so engaging and so emotionally striking. This is one book that I'll come back to time and time again.