Maus = 5/5
Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel treatment of the Holocaust is masterfully done, and I’m sorry it took me so long to read this duology/book; it was near-impossible to put down. Maus is a visual biography about Spiegelman’s father’s experiences as a Jew trying to survive the Holocaust in Poland. It mixes the biography of Spiegelman’s father with the story of Spiegelman’s life and relationship with his father when he was extracting these testimonies and creating the graphic novel itself.
I was initially annoyed that Maus didn’t start off diving into Speigelman’s father’s experiences during the Holocaust, but that annoyance disappeared within a page or two; the intermingling of these two narratives is essential to the story. I don’t think Spiegelman would have been able to tell this story a different way. The relationship between father and son adds a dose of realism to the story that makes it easy for a modern reader to connect with both of them, giving the father’s Holocaust narrative a sense of immediacy and grounding it in modern reality.
By this, I mean Spiegelman’s experiences as a younger adult trying wrangle an aging parent are ever-present in modern society; that he records his conversations with his father about his father’s Holocaust experiences is reminiscent of the moments of realization we today have when grandparents or parents grow older and we don’t want their lifetimes of stories and experiences to be forgotten.
I know I’ve mostly focused on the non-Holocaust aspects of the narrative so far in my review, but I definitely think this should be a text used when teaching students about the Holocaust (I’ll let teachers decide the best age group). Spiegelman balanced his graphic novel well and the horrors of his father’s Holocaust experience are presented honestly; he neither minimizes nor dwells gratuitously on the truth of what happened to his father and family.
TL;DR: Maus is an awesome graphic novel biography-autobiography about the Holocaust, importance of preserving memory, relationships, and humanity.
(Review originally written 11 February 2017)