Review | The Complete Maus
Author: Art Spiegelman
Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic, Biography, History, Nonfiction
Series: Complete Collection
Trigger Warning - Concentration Camps, Mass Death, PTSD, Racial Slurs, Racism, Talk of Superior Race, Torture, Trauma, Violence Against Children
Disclaimer - This book contains graphic content, including , strong language, nudity, and violence, for ages 18+ and should be read with discretion. Do not read further if you would like to avoid any discussions on those topics.
Being the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize says more than enough about this piece. Full of heartbreaks and climatic situations, Spiegelman shares his father's story as a Jew trying to keep his family and himself alive. There are some who argue that this novel is offensive and too descriptive, but it has a lot to say about the survivors of the Holocaust and how their lives continued after the experience. Ups and downs, turn-arounds, throw you back and forth, the entire story is unbelievable that a single person lived through it let alone millions who had similar tales to tell. But it is important to hear them. It is important to read this and understand that this piece of history can never be permitted to happen again.
In-Depth Review (contains spoilers)
Memoirs are difficult to review in the sense that you cannot say whether something seems believable in the story or not. Quite clearly, Vladek's life events did occur. So I will be judging more on how Spiegelman delivered this story to readers.
First, many people have a lot to say about the art style. By choosing a single animal for each nationality, it did create a flawless way of showing the differences between the characters. But I can also see how some would take certain animals offensively depending on their own personal nationality and family ancestry. No one can argue though that it does not get the point across. In the eyes of most, the Jews were like mice. Bottom of the food chain, led around by others without a say in the world. Their own lives controlled by the whim of those in more power.
When writing this story, Spiegelman could have kept just to Vladek's story during the Holocaust. Instead, he shared how his father's life changed as he aged and how his experiences shaped Spiegelman's own life. It told a story of it's own by reading how Spiegelman came to know Vladek's struggles. Those events makes one wonder what kind of man Vladek would have been if he hadn't been born a Jew. And how Spiegelman's own life would have differed as well from his father's actions and if his brother had remained alive.
I believe the black and white style was necessary, especially with the moments that got fairly graphic. This is not supposed to be a pleasant story. It was not a pleasant way of living. Giving color to these frames would have taken away from the bleakness portrayed. It mimics the hopelessness that these people had to live with for years. Since this time has well passed, most people now will never understand first-hand the way of living during the Holocaust. But this story does well to get you close to experiencing that history.
At some point in every person's life, they should read a story or two of those who survived and those who didn't. I highly recommend this piece because it is not a fun story to read. It is informative and important for acknowledging the bad parts of history. And I feel like it is a love story between Vladek and Anja. Always coming back together throughout those years is something so few were able to have. They managed to both survive, get through the death of their son, and live on to have another child. Those two didn't just survive the Holocaust, they also got to live afterwards. It's these people who have shared the darkest moments of those times with the world. It's thanks to them and books like this that we can make sure that we never repeat that history ever again.
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