MAUS: A SURVIVOR'S TALE by Art Spiegelman

MAUS: A SURVIVOR'S TALE

Vol. II, And Here My Troubles Began

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Together with the much-acclaimed first volume of Spiegelman's Maus (1987--not reviewed), this unusual Holocaust tale will forever alter the way serious readers think of graphic narratives (i.e., comic books). For his unforgettable combination of words and pictures, Spiegelman draws from high and low culture, and blends autobiography with the story of his father's survival of the concentration camps. In funny-book fashion, the all-too-real characters here have the heads of animals--the Jews are mice, the Nazis are rats, and the Poles are pigs--a stark Orwellian metaphor for dehumanized relations during WW II. Much of Spiegelman's narrative concerns his own struggle to coax his difficult father into remembering a past he'd rather forget. What emerges in father Vladek's tale is a study in survival; he makes it through by luck, randomness, and cleverness. Physically strong, he bluffs his way through the camps as a tinsmith and a shoemaker, and also exploits his ability with languages. Every day in Auschwitz, and later in Dachau, demands new bribes and masterly bartering. All of this helps explain Vladek's art of survival in the present: his cheap, miserly behavior; his disappointment over Spiegelman's marriage to a non-Jew; his constant criticism of his own second wife and his son; and even his inexcusable racism. Haunted by the brother who died in the camps, Spiegelman (born in postwar Sweden) also mourns his mother, who survived only to commit suicide in the late 60's. Within the time span of the writing of Maus (1978-91), Vladek died, and Spiegelman now must sort out his complex feelings as he reflects on the success of the first volume--a success built on the tragedy of the Holocaust. With all his doubts, Spiegelman pushes on, realizing that his book deserves a place in the ongoing struggle between memory and forgetting. Full of hard-earned humor and pathos, Maus (I and II) takes your breath away with its stunning visual style, reminding us that while we can never forget the Holocaust, we may need new ways to remember.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-394-55655-0
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1991




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