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Monday, 29 September 2014

The Complete Maus By Art Spiegelman

Dearest hearts,

Remember how a while back I was telling you about this wonderful comic book I read? I was telling you back then about Marzi, written by Marzena Sowa. She was recalling her childhood from the communistic Poland. Today I wanted to share with you yet another comic book close to my heart, due to the subject it is touching. I have always loved reading history books and from everything the Second World War was the most interesting part for me... it could be subconsiously the reason I decided to give Krakow a change and stay here :) The book that I wish to tell you about today is named MAUS - The Complete Maus By Art Spiegelman to be more precise (maus = mouse in German language - the jews are portrait in the comic book always as mice.
Combined for the first time in 2003, The Complete Works include Maus I: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II - the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler's Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival - and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.
The comic book is dark and serious but very touching. Known worldwide it has achieved the wonderful feat of being the only comic book awarded with the Pulitzer Prize in 1992!  FYI: The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by Hungarian-American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. According to the administrators of the Pulitzer Prize the correct pronunciation of the name should sound like the verb pull, as in "Pull it, sir". The Pulitzer Committee frankly stated they found the work difficult to classify. "Maus" remains the only comic strip to be so honored.
Reading the book is an experience in itself. It transposes you into Art's place and makes you understand the relationship he has with his father. This is a story about survival and love. Love inside a family, the kind of love that makes you never to let go. You would never let go of your family if you love them. Art shows his guilt - that probably was rooted deep and stayed with him all his life... - when it come to the relationship with his father. Also, I believe it takes a great deal of courage to face the world and show everyone how ones relationships truly were. We always have the dendency to hide and to lie that we are ok, we are fine, when in fact we have deep holes inside of us... that hurt!
I loved how in  the second part, the one about New York and about the period after the war, we can actually see a picture of Art's father. It is a warm and full image of a young man that although he has faced the horrors of war, still has the strenght and the positivism to look forward. I loved Art's father, I loved Vladek, and they way he always choose to see the bright side of life. He was cautios and he was always thinking of the future and the future of the ones he loved. 
The book is not only about the extremely hurtful experience of living in Poland during the time when jews were persecuted but it also extends to the future. We see Vladek being marked by the experiences he has been through... he collects thing, scraps and odd bits and ends and feels the need to attach himself more to objects. He fears that history will repeat itself. That is why he even shows Art how he would build a safe place, just in case he will need it one day. He shows him how to create fake walls and ilusions and teaches him the tips and tricks on getting along with the guards and stealing trades. As Vladek said... it is always good to know how to do a bit of everything. The events that Vladek has been through not only affect his parents and himself but also the generations after. Art was born in the Sweden and lives in the States, yet he feels the influence still. 
Art Spiegelman uses animals to represent different races and nationalities. It's a very effective metaphor. Jews are drawn as mice, which reflects back to the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews being subhuman rats. Germans are cats; they prey on Jewish mice. Americans are dogs, they fight the German cats. The French are frogs. The Polish are pigs; Nazis considered the Polish people to be pigs. Jewish Mice sometimes pretend to be Polish pigs to hide from the German Cats. They do this by wearing pigs masks. 
I recommend reading this comic book with all my heart. If you are a fan of history and if you are not, if you are a fan of comic books and if you are not. Surely this book will touch you and make you think of the horrors passed and the power that people truly have inside themselves. For me this book is also about courage, endurance and love. Let me know what you think of it as soon as you finish it ;) I would love to hear your opinions!

Yours truly,
The LadyBug Who Is A Fan Of History/Comic Books