My main focus is on World War One literature, but I’m not one to deny any decent war lit!
I heard about Maus earlier this year and thought it sounded really interesting. It’s the first graphic novel I’ve ever read, so I was interesting to see how well I liked it. My hopes were not high, but I wanted to buy it as a gift for a student and thought I should check it out first.
Maus comes in two volumes, but I read the complete one because that was the only one in the store. I think that’s probably better, but I’m an impatient thing.
Maus is a comic book/graphic novel (I know nothing about the difference between the two!) about Spiegelman’s father’s experiences in Nazi concentration camps. The characters are animals, however. Jews are Mice, Germans are cats, Polish people are pigs and there’s a quick cameo of a French Frog.
I think that the use of animals helps to separate yourself from the reality of the Holocaust. If you find yourself queasy when confronted with texts about this horrible part of history, you might find this easier to swallow than say, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account. Using animals definitely softens the blow, but it is still very confronting at certain points. This isn’t a negative- I would have been very annoyed if this tried to look at the Holocaust through rose tinted glasses, which I was afraid it would.
I know there are people offended by the Polish/Pigs thing, but I really don’t see how many other domestic animals he could have used without equal offence. Horses maybe, but I don’t know if they’d have drawn well.
I found it interesting that it jumps backwards and forwards between the camps and present day. It deals with the ongoing effects this event had on those who survived it, which is unusual and not something many people tend to consider.
My only little issue was that I thought it would be in colour. It’s in black and white. It suits the nature of the text, but I would have liked colour.
I know that this genre scares people, and I completely understand why. Yes, it can be a very brutal and confronting genre of literature to read. I think that we must take the good with the bad in the world and it is a rare war story that has absolutely no positives whatsoever. Often, mateship is the defining positive in stories, as it is in Maus.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in the Holocaust and anyone looking to dip their toes into war literature!