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Book Review < Back

Maus

Credits: Written and Illustrated by art spiegelman
Publisher: Random House

Commentary

This is the story of Art Spiegelman's father, who survived Auschwitz and Dachau. It is also the story of how Art Spiegelman's father explained all this to his son, and how Spiegelman watched and learned of the damage that the experience continued to wreak all around his life. And, in yet another detachment from the central narrative, everyone is depicted in cartoon terms. All Nazis are depicted as talking cats. The Poles, pigs. And the Jews, mice. It's a Krazy Kat level of separation. But it works. It works visually because it makes all the emotions big and transparent, and makes the reader consider the horror rather than react to its surface. And because it speaks directly to the way the Nazis dehumanised everything around them. A Polish dignitary once questioned Spiegelman on this, uncertain whether the stink of racism was on MAUS, explaining that the Nazis called the Poles pigs. "And they called us (the Jews) vermin," was Spiegelman's response.

Contrary to the simplistic nature suggested by the art, there are no simple demarcations here. Spiegelman's father is a monster. His brave, delicate mother committed suicide twenty years after Dachau. Spiegelman himself becomes fenced in by the bared wire of familial ties and the borders of success. This relentlessly emotional story became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

-- Warren Ellis

 
Warren Ellis has written around thirty graphic novels, comics, prose fiction, journalism, videogames and screenplays. Sometimes he take photographs. He also creates and co-creates websites, including this one. He has awards and stuff, he's been in big magazines and newspapers, and he's been published in Nature, which he always mentions because it makes him laugh. He's on the web at warrenellis.com and diepunyhumans.com.

 


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