Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman | Teen Ink

Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman MAG

September 1, 2013
By Confused_scheherazade ELITE, Brooklyn, New York, New York
Confused_scheherazade ELITE, Brooklyn, New York, New York
132 articles 0 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
I know nothing, but of miracles.

How can you sum up the life and memories of a Holocaust survivor, husband, and ­father in a graphic novel? Art Spiegelman undertakes this tremendous task in a fictional biographical memoir that tries to catalog the memories of his father, weaving between two timelines: an aged widower in 1970s New York and the young man in Europe from the mid-1930s to the end of WWII.

Throughout the story, Art, the estranged son, repeatedly questions his father about the war and his life. Vladek recounts first falling in love with Art's mother, Anja, as anti-­Semitic sentiments were growing in eastern Europe. Art records his father's many escapades, from being drafted to being a prisoner of war, sneaking across borders, being captured and sent to Auschwitz before finally being liberated.

Like many survivors, Vladek's life and personality are complex and human, as he mourns for his lost family, while criticizing his second wife for not living up to his first. His post-war environment makes him anal, miserly, and anxious – traits that allowed him to survive the war, in addition to his cautiousness and ­resourcefulness.

Several themes are explored, including memory, family, racism, limitations of language, and the guilt that inflicts the ­descendants of Jewish survivors, who are unable to comprehend the horrors of war, and feel remorse for their comparatively easy lives.
Art Spiegelman uses post-modern art techniques to differentiate between ethnicities – i.e. mice for Jews, and cats for Germans – employing cartoons as caricatures to help capture the essence of war.
In many ways, Maus is a ­personal tool of catharsis, attempting to understand the repercussions of his parents' post-Holocaust lives, his mother's suicide, and second-generation guilt. Often critical of his own ability to capture the tones and atmosphere of his father, he continually shows that artists and historians are often their own enemy as well as guide, capturing the past and truths in the only way they can.

Maus, the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize, redefines “comic” and brings attention to a time that many have chosen to forget, but never should.

The author's comments:
For those who are interested and willing to acknowledge the hard facts about history, the Holocaust, Jewish familial culture, and comics

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