(The Complete) Maus
This book arrived via a friend as a Christmas gift this past year. She is a teacher in Europe and uses it - like many teachers - as a textbook for her students when teaching the Holocaust. Maus is written, (or should I say drawn?) by Art Spiegelman and was the winner of a Pulitzer Prize.
The book is different on many levels, beginning with the fact it is presented as a cartoon. Jews are mice. Poles pigs. French frogs. Germans dogs. And it does succeed in telling the story of the Holocaust, as seen through the eyes of Spiegelman’s dad. Both of Spiegelman’s parents were Auschwitz survivors.
It is this relationship with his dad, that runs as a common thread throughout the book. For this is a story of a son trying to understand the complexities of their relationship and to learn more about his mother, and how the pair survived the Nazis.
If you think the relationship between Spiegelman and his father is portrayed as all lovey dubby then think again. It is a very real, difficult relationship that Freud would’ve held up as an example in a classroom for his students. They are mean, short-tempered, dismissive, demanding, callous, and yes, loving. It is a very real depiction.
The Holocaust is shown in all its brutality and horror. We see the dead and dying. We see the illness, the desperation, and the betrayal by Poles and other groups, including Jews looking out for themselves. It is an excellent introduction into the life of this era, from a Jewish perspective.
The reader is also exposed to the aftermath of the Holocaust and what it means to be a survivor. Like any trauma victim, Holocaust survivors suffered by and large from psychological scars that played out in their everyday lives after the war.
This was a great gift because it is a great book. The fact, a special friend connected me to it makes this literary work an invaluable prize on my bookshelf. The rating on this book is easily 5 of 5. Share it with your own kids or someone who needs to learn about the era.