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Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize, Maus tells the story of Spiegelman’s parents during the Holocaust from the perspective of a son watching his father with all the frustration that accompanies it. All people are presented as animals as a representation of their nationality (for example, all Jews are depicted as mice, hence the name Maus which is German for “mouse”), an ingenious way to clearly show who is who in this story.
This was my first foray into the world of graphic novels, and Maus has impressed me to umpteenth degree. I’ve always had this impression that graphic novels are more comics than novels, but Maus has so many layers and so many intricate details in it (for example, the mice wear masks as they trying to slip by unnoticed). Spiegelman tells the story of his father and mother in a bold and radical way, by taking a medium I thought was for the Sunday funnies to new artistic heights by taking on such a momentous topic as the Holocaust.
Yann Martel sent Maus to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and in his letter said:
“Some stories need to be told in many different ways so that they might exist in new ways for new generations. The story of the murder of nearly six million of Europe’s Jewish people at the hand of the Nazis and their criminal accomplices is just the sort of story that needs renewing if we don’t want a part of ourselves to fall asleep, like grandchildren nodding off after hearing grandfather repeat the same story of yore one time too many.”
I have to agree with Martel’s assessment because, with Maus, the story of the Holocaust can so easily be shared with those who don’t like to read, who don’t enjoy reading “real literature” about the Holocaust.
It’s extremely easy to read, and probably would have taken me less time to read if I hadn’t had to keep stopping and explaining that, “No, I don’t usually read graphic novels, but this is so different, so ingenious.” But don’t get me wrong, although the pictures are small and in black and white, they still have a huge impact on you as the reader.
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- Spiegelman, Art. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. First published 1986. Print. 160 pgs. ISBN: 9780394541556. Source: Borrowed from my teacher.