Sunday, January 9, 2011

MAUS I: A SURVIVOR'S TALE by Art Spiegelman

MAUS is the story of one man's survival during the Holocaust.  The unique thing is that the story is told in graphic novel format.  Author Art Spiegelman tells his father's story in gut-wrenching detail but slightly softens the blow by using animals as characters - the Jews are portrayed by mice, the Nazis by cats, etc.

Artie, as his father calls him, wants to tell his father's story, but first he has to listen.  Visit after visit Vladek slowly reveals what transpired in Poland from the beginning of the war until the day he and his wife entered the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Vladek shares his memories of meeting Artie's mother and about their courtship and marriage.  He tells of his beginnings in the textile business and of the good life it provided for them as a young couple.  Then he describes the changes that began for them.  The remainder of the tale is filled with talk of daily survival, hiding in crowded, tiny spaces, making do with next to nothing, and living in constant fear of discovery that would result in certain imprisonment or death.

Intertwined in the historical events is evidence of the strained relationship between father and son.  Vladek's old world views clash with Artie's more modern, carefree lifestyle.  The mix of old and young along with father and son give the book a kind of story-within-a-story appeal.

Readers interested in Holocaust history will want to check this one out and also the second book - MAUS II: AND HERE MY TROUBLES BEGAN.

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