22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2004
"Maus," Art Spiegelman's moving tale of the Holocaust and how it impacts a family a generation later, is hailed as a comics classic for a reason. It is a landmark work that transcends the term "comics."
Through the seemingly absurd decision to use animals in place of people - Jews are mice, for instance, while Nazis are cats - Spiegelman manages to avoid coming across as heavy-handed, exploitative and melodramatic. The reader never feels that they are reading an educational tome with badly drawn people better suited for school than compelling entertainment. Instead, through the use of universal cartoon imagery, the emotional tug of the story is successfully conveyed.
Two threads are woven throughout. The first deals with the Holocaust directly, from the years before Jews were taken to the camps and then to release. The second thread deals with Spiegelman's relationship with his father many years later, and that relationship's ups and downs as the author tries to get the oral history he needs to tell the tale of "Maus." All of the pain, confusion, death, turmoil and horror of the Holocaust comes home, as does the autobiographical tale interwoven throughout of the author's relationship with his father - who is also the central figure of Holocaust survival.
Modern editions of this book ("Maus" was originally published in serial form) are generally produced very well. The two-book slipcase offered here is sturdy and attractive to look at. The pages are printed on thick, glossy stock. The black and white artwork really shines, every stroke visible and vibrant. Mine has been read multiple times and still looks great.
"Maus" is compelling reading that requires no great love of comics to enjoy. History lovers, those interested in the Holocaust, and people who like stories about family struggles will enjoy this. Readers will quickly forget they are reading a comic, instead becoming wrapped up in the story Spiegelman has to tell. A highly recommended buy.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2003
Growing up Jewish, the Holocaust became an inevitable part of my identity. In school and in my brief religious education I've read book after book after book, seen documentary after documentary, explaining to me in gut-wrenching detail what happened to my ancestors at the hands of the Nazis. Sad to say, after so many accounts, so many black-and-white photos of skeletons and diary entries of anguished children, I felt like I'd seen it all. I thought there was nothing to surprise me about the Holocaust. Then, in seventh grade, my Hebrew school teacher handed me a box covered with cartoon pictures of cowering mice and towering cats. Inside were two slim red-backed books of cartoons. He said, "We're reading this in class. Go ahead and get a head start."
I've read Maus I and II several times since then, and each time it surprises me with its understated power. It's an almost magical combination of words and images that coalesce into two--almost three--parallel stories: that of Vladek Spiegelman's survival and eventual liberation from Auschwitz, and his relationship with his beloved, slightly unstable wife Anja, who committed suicide after the war; and that of the progress of Vladek's relationship with his grown son Art, the author of these books. By recreating his parents' world, before and during the Holocaust, Art Spiegelman attempts to understand how those experiences shaped his father, and tries to come to terms with his own frustration in dealing with Vladek now, a stubborn, bitter, ultimately fragile old man.
Spiegelman's cartoon images are brutal--not, for the most part, because they're horrifically graphic, but because the angular line drawings, the opaque shadows, and the humanoid animals lend a creepy surrealism to the stories. The Jews are mice; the Nazis, cats; the Poles, pigs; the French, frogs; the Americans, dogs...In one sequence, the cartoonist and his therapist appear as humans, wearing mouse masks, while stray dogs and cats wander the streets. Every once in a while, as a story ends, a series of drawings is punctuated by a dark, narrow sketch of Auschwitz's smoking chimneys. It's haunting.
It's difficult to convey in words the scope and power of Spiegelman's depictions. For this jaded Jewish preteen, Maus finally brought home the impact of the Holocaust, not only the inhumanity and horror of death, but the lasting burdens carried by the survivors and their children.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2003
The title of this review consists of words I don't use too often. But this is a masterpiece that deserved its Pulitzer Prize and then some. What makes Spiegelman's work so moving is the juxtaposition of a supposedly lighthearted form, the comic strip, with the greatest evil and suffering in human history, the Holocaust. Spiegelman's parents miraculously survived the concentration camps, being among very few survivors, getting by on luck and (in the case of Spiegelman's father) a lot of resourcefulness. This is their story, from the point of view of the father, who lost nearly all of his relatives. With the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats, this work pulls no punches in describing the true horrors of the Holocaust, and Spiegelman's minimalist artwork makes the images all the more disturbing. You don't get this kind of emotion, terror, and brutal honesty in standard written accounts of the period. But underneath the direct suffering of the Holocaust, the true theme of this book is the lasting effects on the Spiegelman family, including the father's lasting agony and the mental illness shared by both Spiegelman's mother and himself, who hadn't even been born yet. The strained relationship between father and son are the true heart of this tremendous work. I haven't been this blown away by a work of literature in a very long time, if ever.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2003
A comic book on the Holocost? That includes a love story? And humor? Seems far fetched, but somehow it works. Very well, at that.
Spiegelman weaves three stories between two books. First and foremost is the story of his father Vladek's survival of the Holocost. Second is Art and Vladek coming to grips with each other, a relationship that is strained at best. Lastly is the story of Vladek's love for his wife Anja, and how Art and Vladek come to grips with her death.
This is no Hollywood story. The humor is dark, at best. No punches are pulled with the Holocost. There is no great happy ending. The book covers how people cope with the terrible. It does so in a very real and true manner. Truly gripping.
The author is to be commended to be opening up his life, as well as the lives of his family. The honesty makes for gripping and disturbing coverage of a most important topic.
on December 13, 2014
I love reading about history, so I definitely enjoyed this one!
I love reading stories about History, or any historical fiction really. I’ve always taken a particular liking in reading about World War II and that’s the main reason I decided to pick up this graphic novel. I have to say that I really enjoyed it.
The two main Characters are Art and Vladek. Art is trying to understand his father better by writing a graphic novel on how he survived the Holocaust. They both have a difficult relationship and Art believes one of the reason why that would be is because of the way the war affected his father. I loved reading about their interactions and witnessing how Art was slowly getting to know his father better as he narrates his story.
The story is written on two time-lines. First, we have panels about Art and his father Vladek talking about the war and trying to establish a relationship and there also are other panels where the reader can read about Vladek trying to survive the war. I loved that I could see these two perspectives.
The panels are totally in black and white. I really liked this because I think it adds more power to the heavy themes the story conveys. Also, the characters are represented under the forms of animals: Jews are mice, Germans are cat, Americans are dogs, etc. I think this concept was really original.
For someone that does not read a great amount of graphic novels, I really enjoyed this one and I am giving four stars to both volumes. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to read more about history or would like to get more into graphic novels :)
on November 17, 2003
This is a graphic novel based on the story of the author's father, and the story is a fascinating one - he survived Auschwitz, along with his wife (Spiegelman's mother). If this had been a 'normal' novel, rather than a comic (or probably better termed a Bande Desinee as it would be called in France or Belgium) it could have descended into self-importance, but rather it is a story of one of the 20th Century's darkest moments told in an all too human tone (even if the characters are portrayed as mice, pigs and cats). Spiegelman resists making his father into a hero - he is an annoying old man, almost impossible to live with. And the author doesn't try to write off these faults as scars of his father's experience - he points out that perhaps his father is just naturally an annoying person.
Spiegelman does a brilliant job of fusing the individual and the broad historical canvas, creating a fascinating, absorbing, moving and entertaining work of art. More history should be made individual and accessible in this way.
on October 29, 2003
I first read this set in my first year of college as required reading for my freshman seminar. At first, my classmates and I were taken aback by the format--it is anything but "academic" in appearance. Once I delved into it however, I discovered the utterly compelling aspect of this tale! I was so engaged by Maus I and II, originally reading them weeks before I was supposed to. I enjoyed reading it again when it came time to discuss these works in class! I was also amazed and pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of this set to my freshman curriculum, meaning that my school recognized the art form of the graphic novel as something far greater in value than just a glorified "comic book".
I would highly recommend this set as an addition to an academic curriculum, particularly on a high school and college level. It presents the subject of the Holocaust in a completely novel way--your students will not be able to put it down, and your class discussions will be afire with ideas.
on October 7, 2003
When I first heard about MAUS, I was among the most negative of skeptics. What did Art Spiegelman mean by producing a COMIC BOOK version of the Holocaust? Wouldn't this trivialize a great tragedy? How could anyone even THINK of reducing it to "Bam! Zap! Pow!" and other such stereotypes? The very idea offended me. Then I actually READ read the book -- and discovered how wrong my assumptions were.
Let's face it, folks -- most books on the Holocaust are college level, heavy-duty reading. There are plenty of people out there who will never, ever plow through a thick historical tome, but who might just pick up a copy of MAUS and learn something. Academians may skoff at such things as "classics comics" and MAUS, but I have met quite a few high school students who admitted that MAUS was the only book on the Holocaust that they had ever bothered to read. For that alone, Spiegelman well-deserves the many awards and high acclaim that MAUS has received over the years.
As for the story itself, the characters are well-developed, and the animal metaphors quite creative. (The Jews are mice, the Nazis are cats, the Polish collaborators with the Nazis are pigs, etc. Also pay close attention to how the Jewish mice wear masks to "pass" when they must go outside from hiding.) Although this has been classified as fiction by some, the story is based on Spiegelman's interviews with his own father, and the incidents are authentic enough that, even if they are fictionalized, they certainly could have happened in real life. This is a story of genuine courage -- not the "Pow! Zap! Bang!" kind in superhero comics, but a tale of bravery just the same.
on September 3, 2003
Anyone who wants to know anything about the Holocaust should not miss this book. The graphic-novel style of the book tends to put the reader at ease as the story begins to unfold, and by the time the bad stuff hits, you're hooked. The book spends very little time discussing the social or political causes of the holocaust, but rather focuses on the author's father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish jew caught up in one of this centuries greatest crimes. The dialogue between Art Spiegelman and his father, Vladek, serve to humanize the characters right away, and serve notice that even though the Holocaust is over, it's scars have remained in the people who lived through it, and those whose lives were forever altered because of it.
Spiegelman's characterization of the jews as mice and the Nazis as cats is a brilliant casting of the hunter v. hunted. Other castings, such as the Poles as pigs and Americans as dogs may not be altogether accurate, but they serve the story quite well. The artwork is very high quality, but retains enough of a comic-book feel to put the reader at ease as the war begins and the mousetrap is sprung.
I was surprised at the brutal honesty of both Vladek and Art as they relay their experiences in both books, particularly as Art reprints his "Prisoner on Hell Planet", a story about his mother that was originally printed years ago. These kinds of no-holds-barred stories reveal the flaws that are inherent in all of us, and makes the story that much more universal.
This is a tremendous story that should not be dismissed because of its format. READ THIS BOOK!!
on May 3, 2003
The Holocaust is a difficult event to comprehend, even more so with the passage of time. How ironic that a comic ("graphic novel" if you wish) so eloquently and powerfully details the horrors and long-term effects of that tragic time. Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize for this work, and it is certainly deserved. I was deeply moved by his and his father's (Vladek's) story.
The plot line is simple - how a Polish Jew managed to survive the first years of the war from the Nazi invasion to Spiegelman's s deportation to Auschwitz in 1944. Yet his survival was anything but simple. The story is riveting, and honestly I am amazed how anyone managed to endure and survive those cruel years. Yet the way the story is presented amplifies the impact of the Holocaust. Cartoons are so simple and innocent. Here they describe and detail the barbarism, brutality and sheer evil of the "Final Solution."
The drawings, too have a double meaning. The Jews are mice - helpless when rounded up by the predatory Nazi cats. The Poles are pigs (fitting, given generations of Polish anti-semitism), Americans are dogs (as in "dog-face.") It makes the story accessable, even a little easier to comprehend. (We can all understand "cat - and mouse" - indeed, this is exactly how Vladek Spiegelman managed to survive.) Easy to read, very accessable to all ages, and equally powerful.