The Complete Maus, a Survivor's Tale
I didn’t quite know what to expect when I started reading this as I very rarely read graphic novels. I remember my boyfriend reading it a few years ago and being very moved by it. Since then, I’d wandered past it in the bookshop often and always
I didn’t quite know what to expect when I started reading this as I very rarely read graphic novels. I remember my boyfriend reading it a few years ago and being very moved by it. Since then, I’d wandered past it in the bookshop often and always had it down as a book I should read, but never got around to. I think what finally spurred me on was a recent BBC documentary about the descendents of prominent Nazis during the war (Hitler’s Children) where the grandson of one of the commandants at Auschwitz went to visit the camp. They showed how scared he was that he would be recognised and hated because of his grandfather. Once there, a Jewish survivor of the camp hugged him and made it clear that he was not responsible for the actions of his ancestors. It was probably once of the most moving moments in a documentary I’ve ever seen.
So I finally decided to read this book and I’m glad I did. It’s one of those books that makes you re-evaluate the world around you. In the first half of the last century, there was an awful lot of hatred around; sometimes being reminded of how absolutely awful humans can be to each other and how one of the worst things that has ever happened is still in living memory puts perspective on your everyday life and makes you more appreciative of the world around you. It highlights how important it is to always treat people well and fight against discrimination and injustice.
It’s not an easy read, by any means. Spiegelman represents the Jewish people in the story as mice whilst the Nazi Germans are cats and the Poles are pigs. The use of animals allows for an expressiveness in the artwork, in the characters’ expressions, that evokes the horror of some of the situations more than a human face could. It’s a book that shows the power of artwork and the importance of listening to the stories of the people around us. History is often confined to statistics and the actions of the powerful people, which can make it so much easier to forget how horrendous things really were. And when we forget, we make it easier to repeat. Spiegelman’s book helps to prevent us forgetting.