Maus I: My Father Bleeds History

by Art Spiegelman

Maus I CoverMan, first Ablutions and then this; I really don’t know what I was thinking. I need to read something light and happy next, to help wash this wave of despair away. (Save me, Wodehouse!) Though, to be perfectly honest, I’ll probably be reading the second instalment of Maus immediately after this one, because it seems to me that there’s more to this story than where we leave off, you know, since we only arrive at Auschwitz at the end. (…Spoilers…?)

Maus is Spiegelman’s famous graphic novel about the Holocaust. In the first book, the comic book artist Art Spiegelman visits with his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor, attempting to get his version of what happened. And it’s amazing how effective the modern aspects of the story are at humanizing the events from the war, what I originally thought was simply a device to keep the story cohesively held together. And this has always been a problem I’ve had with Holocaust stories: Being so far-removed from anything even close to the horror and cruelty brought down by the Nazis, it can all feel so surreal. But, having Maus I presented as a son attempting to extract this important story from a father who seems more concerned about the drainpipe he needs to fix on his house really hits home that these tragedies befell real people.

Otherwise, it’s hard for me to find much to say about the book. Being a Holocaust book, the depressing nature of Maus I shouldn’t be surprising, and Spiegelman is unflinching in his portrayal of this dark stain on our history. No, the big surprise to me is that I’m suggesting a comic book about mice is the most humanizing Holocaust story I’ve encountered. But, really, it is.