Monday, June 27, 2011

1980's Flashback: Maus

Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman, is a memoir of Art Spiegelman listening to his father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, retelling his story. The graphic novel alternates between portions of Vladek's life in Poland before and during the Second World War, and his later life in the Rego Park neighborhood of New York City. The entire work took thirteen years to complete, originally serialized in underground comics of the 1970s and then published in two volumes released in 1986 and 1991. It has since been integrated into a single volume.

The graphic narrative depicts Jews as mice, while Germans are depicted as cats. Other animals are used to represent other nationalities, religions, and races. Almost all the characters of a single "nationality" were drawn identically, with only clothing or other details helping to distinguish between them individually. It is the only comic book ever to have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

In particular, Art Spiegelman portrays Vladek's difficult personality and Art's attempt to make sense of it. He was exceedingly stingy and made life very difficult for both his first wife Anja (Art's mother, a concentration camp survivor who committed suicide) and his second wife Mala (also a concentration camp survivor). Art contrasts the contemporary Vladek with the historical Vladek, whom he only knows indirectly through his research. He comments about the difficulties of presenting Vladek's story accurately.

Maus is also the recipient of the Angoulême International Comics Festival Award, the Urhunden Prize, Eisner Award, Harvey Award and been nominated twice for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

1 comment:

Eddie said...

I went to see Art speak at the Savannah Art Institute in Atlanta a couple years ago. He explained some things in MOUS as well as some of this NEW YORKER covers. It was an interesting evening. I also brought my book by him about 9/11 hoping he might sign it. I couldn't get close enough to even speak.