The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

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The Complete Maus is a memoir presented as a graphic novel. The complete story was published in 2 volumes: Part I: My Father Bleeds History in 1986 and Part II: And Here My Troubles Began in 1991. It recounts the struggle of Spiegelman’s father to survive the holocaust and also the troubled relationships between the author and his father. It draws largely based on the father’s recollections of his experiences.

The characters were drawn as half-animals (with animal head and some characteristics, but with human body). The jews are depicted as mice (hence the title, which is “mouse” in German), the Germans as cats, the Poles as pigs, Americans as dogs, and other minor animals. This choice feels so surprisingly natural that I can’t imagine it be done in any other way. The very few simple lines show the expressions very well. Even though all the (same) animals look pretty much similar apart from their clothes, I never lost track of who is whom. Love love love the arts. Spiegelman must be a genious.

I’m also very fond of the parts that show Spiegelman’s relationship with his father. How the war had affected so much, even to generations after the direct victim. How I wish to hear his mother’s side of the story. I found it completely ironic that the mother committed suicide after surviving a holocaust with no note. It was soo very very sad when at the end of the book, upon finding each other again, the father said “We were both very happy, and lived happy, happy ever after.” What an irony :(

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At first I found the way they talked was kinda funny, and thought it was a translation mistake. I think it was done on purpose to show the way the father talk English (which is of course not his first language). After a while I started to find it adorable and I could really imagine a real person talking like that. The father was really smart. He survived by being smart. Of course there was a whole lot of luck involved. But he was first resourceful and strong, pysically and mentally. I found all of his little ‘survival techniques’ very interesting.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. This is not just ‘another’ Holocaust story (which I kinda thought at the beginning). It’s not. It shows things from different views. It’s detailed but not graphically violent. It’s simple but it really strikes you all on the right spots. It’s personal, it’s heartbreaking, and but not overly melancholy. The book is a masterpiece. Nuff said.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Pages: 296
Publication year: 1986 (part I: My Father Bleeds History), 1991 (part II: And Here My Troubles Began)

Awards
1992 Pulitzer Prize, Special Awards and Citations – Letters
1992 Eisner Award Best Graphic Album: Reprint (Maus II)
1992 Harvey Award – Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work (Maus II)

Also reviewed by

Maw Books Blog | Caribousmom | Rebecca Reads | Educating Petunia | Things Mean A Lot | The Hidden Side of Leaf | Nothing of Importance | Bold. Blue. Adventure. | Rhinoa’s Ramblings | In Spring it is the Dawn | 1morechapter Maus I Maus II | A Life in Books | An Adventure in Reading | Thoughts of Joy Maus I Maus II | Book Nut | Books I Done Read (the only negative review :) | Out of the Blue | The Indextrious Reader | Cynical Optimism | Booknotes by Lisa | A Fondness for Reading (Maus I) | Historical Tapestry | where troubles melt like lemon drops | Regular Rumination (Maus I)

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