Danuta's Reviews > Maus, I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History

Maus, I by Art Spiegelman
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
4539499
's review
Feb 05, 12


I have a real, real problem with this book. It's a powerful piece, and tells the story of one family's experiences of the Holocaust in grim and gripping detail. it's also an amazing exploration of the relationship between a father and son. I'd love to give it 5 stars. And yet... I couldn't give a decent rating to a book that depicted black people, Muslims or gays as pigs, and I can't give a good rating to a book that depicts Poles as pigs. The book is not the history of the Polish people during the occupation, fair enough, but Spiegleman draws on stereotypes and shows a great deal of ignorance of events in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine during the years of the Nazi occupation. He seems to prefer the Nazis to the Poles. The Nazis are evil but elegant, the Poles are just brute animals. Apparently, when Spieglaman was challenged about the way he depicts Poles in this book, he said 'Stop squealing.' I haven't a source for this quote, and I hope it is wrong. Powerful? Yes. Racist? Yes.
12 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Maus, I.
sign in »

Comments (showing 1-39 of 39) (39 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

Penny Grubb I really didn't know how to review this book, but this review says it all. I rarely give 1-star reviews, I don't bother at all if I don't like the book, but this was good in many ways, I just couldn't stomach the racism.


message 2: by Ben (new)

Ben Selfridge I don't understand. Were the Polish people portrayed as being stupid? Just because they were drawn as pigs doesn't mean the book is automatically racist.


Danuta The significance of pigs is important here - they are deemed unclean animals in both Jewish and Muslim cultures. The Nazis called the 'sub-human' peoples of Poland, Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus 'swine.' Picking this particular animal, in this particular context, is more than simply choosing a drawing. Spiegelman, in the book, shows how carefully he selects the animals to depict the races when he is speculating how to draw his French wife. The choice of pigs was deliberate and sends a message anyone with understanding of the cultures involved, and the times, would understand. He did use the word 'squeals' in an interview to dismiss Polish protests. This is racist. The depiction of Poles in the book is very close to the Nazi depiction of them - brutal and sub-human. This is also racist. I'll say again that is is a pity such a powerful book is cheapened and destroyed by such a venomous depiction of other victims of Nazi crimes against humanity.


message 4: by Ben (last edited Mar 02, 2012 06:28AM) (new)

Ben Selfridge Well, I guess I have to concede that it's been a couple years since I read the book. But whether or not it was intentional racism, it is a shame that it marred your experience so much. I remember being deeply affected by the book, and I definitely don't remember coming away with any anti-Polish sentiment.

I do have to point out, though, that most of the race-to-animal assignments could be deemed racist - I remember the French as frogs, which is OBVIOUSLY stereotypical, and if I remember correctly, aren't Americans depicted as dogs? That could imply that Americans are base animals that sniff their own junk and don't think for themselves.

But like I said - it's been while. Maybe I missed something when I read it, but I remember the animal choice as shrugworthy - you COULD get upset about it, but I don't know why you'd bother.


Danuta He speculates about depicting his wife as a frog, but doesn't. Anyway, there are no stereotypes associated with frogs. There is a lot of history behind the denigration of the Poles, particularly in relation to WW2. I can't go into it all here, but there are some books you might find interesting - Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder covers the dreadful history of eastern Europe under Stalin and Hitler, and Bieganski, the Brute Polak Stereotype by Danusha Goska explores the post-war denigration of the Poles. Spiegelman's book plays to this stereotype, sadly. It isn't just the animal choice, it is a pretty relentless focus on Poles, where they appear, behaving venally, brutishly and badly.


message 6: by Ben (new)

Ben Selfridge Cool, I'll have to revisit Maus and see if I agree.


Danuta I'll be interested to hear what you think.


Elise You forget that the Jewish were depicted as mice because the Nazi's viewed them as vermin, even Hitler himself said he hated Mickey Mouse because he was a mouse. The Nazis were portrayed as cats because it was literally a game of cat and mouse. The Polish weren't nice even though they occupied by the Nazis they did some disgusting things to the Polish Jews once they got home, one bit in the book a jew came home and he got killed trying to get his possessions back, he survived Holocaust for that...


Danuta Elise, you should read in detail the accounts of the occupation of Poland. Poles constitute the largest national group within the Righteous Among the Nations recognized by Yad Vashem. Yes, some behaved badly, as did so many in other countries - the French did almost nothing to protect their Jews, though they were not subjected to the horrors of the occupation that Eastern Europeans suffered. The British the Americans did almost nothing to protect the Jews, and actively prevented many from escaping. Spiegelman talked about 'a squeal of outrage' from the Poles when the issue of their depiction was put to him - he, too, seemed to think the Poles were pigs, though he has modified his views since. Remember that Poles provided crucial help to the Allies in the war against the Nazis, fighting on land, sea and air. Poland never surrendered, and suffered terribly under the Nazis. After the war, they were betrayed and sold to Stalin. Those who rose against the Nazis and survived were shot by Red Army troops or sent to the gulags. You should have respect for such brave people, not denigrate them because, like other nations, they had bad people among them.


Kimmie This depicts the nature that these different groups of people were viewed as, during the Holocaust. Taking credit away from a wonderful piece of literature, because you don't like the pictures is kind of crazy. If you were to read this with out the pictures would you not have given I more stars?


Danuta Kimmie wrote: "This depicts the nature that these different groups of people were viewed as, during the Holocaust. Taking credit away from a wonderful piece of literature, because you don't like the pictures is k..."

Well, Kimmie, it is a graphic novel, so the images are an important part of the text. I don't like the depiction of the Poles is what I'm saying, and I think it's sad that an otherwise powerful book is destroyed because of this very partial and one-sided picture. Read some of my responses to other comments for more detail about this - but it isn't because I 'don't like the pictures.'


message 12: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Lewis I would not have made any connection between pigs and a statement about the Polish people and therefore I have some questions. My doubts mean that I'm not convinced, not that I think your argument has no merit.

There are good pigs and less good pigs, good mice and bad. The novel shows very complex relationships. There are many Poles portrayed in a positive light which makes me think that "Poles = bad" theme is an unfair assessment because of its simplicity. The mice never seem to regret wearing their pig masks...never suggest they feel unclean doing so....never express a sentiment that the pigs are uncaring. EVERYONE is out to survive. Is there any other hint that pigs are bad other than that the Jewish culture generally views pigs as unclean? It is a good point, but is there other evidence to back it up? Did you ever source the Spiegelman "squealing" quote?

The Jews are portrayed as vermin (do people see mice as clean? I don't)....why would Spiegelman portray his own people in an unfavourable light instead of just the Poles? Why would he include the stories of Jews turning in other Jews along with Poles turning in Jews? There's no end to the ugliness, what makes the portrayal of Poles so different than other portrayals?

I have not yet read the second part of Maus, so maybe there's more to it later?


message 13: by Jose (last edited Dec 26, 2012 05:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jose Martin I think you are approaching your views on the book the wrong way.

First. You talk about a disgust against black people, muslims and gay, that come from Vladek, the father. It's important that you look very objectively at his opinions, because as presented in very diferent occasions he is a very old fashion man that has suffer endlessly and that is trapped in his stereotypes and hate.

Second. As you say, it may seems like Poles are worst than Germans. And in the story presented here I can almost agree with that. You see, Germans are cold-blooded murderes, overall powerful and terrible. Like a cat to a mouse. But on the other side you have the Poles people that recive the status of pigs for their actions. It's not beacuse they are brutes, but for their easily corrupted mind and corrupted actions. Spiegelman (character) gets betrayed by every Pole that he meets, even if they help him at some point before.

And three. The hole comic is deliver as a heart breaking story with a stereotypical cover that work as an artistic twist, a social satire, a metaphor and a sentimental boost. Not all Germans were terrible and over powered, still they are all cats. Not all Jews were weak and defenseless, still they are all mice. Not all Poles were corrupted or good intentioned, so they are all pigs. Spiegelman (autor), as said by himself, with this he parodys the Nazi twisted vision of the human "races". I don't know for sure, because I haven's read the second book yet, but supposedly later he deconstructs the animal metaphor showing that the lines cannot be drawn between races of humans.

This is just my opinion. Needless to say that I respect yours a lot and that I just wanted to partake in the discussion.


Danuta Hi, Ian. Thank you for sharing your ideas on this very thought-provoking book. The 'squeal' comment is made by Art Spiegelman in 'Art Spiegelman, Conversations' edited by Joseph Vitek. The actual quote comes from an interview with Spiegelman for LA Weekly, by Ella Taylor. Spiegelman says: 'in the last decade there's been mostly a very understanding and supportive response, certainly within the community of the directly affected and afflicted, and a cry - a squeal let's say - of outrage from the Polish community.' I find that pretty offensive.

To Jose. I don't have a problem with the fact that Spiegelman represents his own father's racism. It's an honest portrait, and Vladek remains a tragic figure despite this. I agree with you that the book, on the whole, is a moving account of dreadful events. However, it depicts one group, a group that was among the most oppressed by the Nazis, after the Jews, as being in some way complicit in what happened, and that is both unacceptable and historically wrong. For me, it ruins an otherwise powerful piece of writing.

You should read Bloodlands' by Timothy Snyder, or The Eagle Unbowed by Halik Kochanski, and you will see more clearly why this depiction is deeply unjust, and how it feeds into a stereotyping of the Polish people that was started after Stalin was given rule over Poland after World War 2, and had a vested interest in discrediting the people who had fought on the side of the Allies and who wanted a free Poland (and who Stalin murdered in their tens of thousands after the war.)


message 15: by Jose (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jose Martin To be opressed does not grand you the right to do the same. I don't think It would made any diference if, instead of Poles he represented the pigs with Americans or British, Muslims, you name it. And it doesn't matter that Poles have suffer too, the point is that these, the ones Spiegelman met made him suffer, betrayed him.


Danuta I think, Jose, if he had represented Muslims as pigs, the results would have been a bit apocalyptic, to be honest. In the course of Vladek Spiegelman's war, as told in the book, he met some Poles who betrayed him. This was his experience, and Art Spiegelman tells this story. What he does not make clear is that in Poland only, the penalty for helping escaping Jews was death, not just for the perpetrators, but their families (including their children) as well. Even so, many Poles helped the Jews. Only in Poland was there an organisation established specifically to care for the Jews in hiding. You wouldn't know any of that from reading the book.

My issue with this book is that Spiegelman depicts the Poles as being uniquely anti-Semitic, and this is just not true. It's a lie, and a lie that was promoted by Stalin. There was bad feeling between some ethnic Poles and some Polish Jews because a lot of Polish Jews supported the Soviet occupation of Poland prior to the war that was cruel, murderous and oppressive (in my book, The Forest of Souls, written under the name Carla Banks, one of the characters, a Belarusian woman, says 'To us, the Nazis came as liberators, at first.') Simon Wiesenthal said, 'Just as I, a Jew, do not want to shoulder responsibility for the Jewish communists, I cannot blame 36 million Poles for those thousands of szmalcownicy (blackmailers who preyed on the Jews.)'

In Maus, Spiegelman depicts Vladek's racism against an American black. The wrongness of this belief is carefully established - the son and his wife are outraged by this. In Maus, the Poles as a race are represented by the worst, tiny minority. The brave majority, the ones who fought and died, the ones who came to the UK and continued fighting the Nazis - and dying - the ones who were betrayed by the Allies at the end of the war, are not even given a mention. Instead, when Poles object to this one-sidedness, Spiegelman tells them to 'stop squealing.'


message 17: by Jose (last edited Dec 28, 2012 06:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jose Martin I don't know where you got that quote, I haven't been able to find it so I can't take it really seriosly. I' m going to step away from the main subject and bring something I just remembered. We are talking about 'My father bleeds story', maening just Vol. 1 of the Maus series, in which there is no attack against homosexuals, muslims or african-americans, and when Vladek is raicist against the black hitchiker he is a mouse not a pig.
Now returning to the main topic here. There where some germans, not only germans, Nazi soldiers that help Jews, why doesn't he speak of that, why are all germans and Nazis cats? You said it yourself, this is Vladek's story and he is only going to talk about what he experienced, he is only going to talk about it in his manner. There is no obligation to write the whole holocaust story, from all perspectives this isn't a history text book.


Danuta Jose, just put the words of Spiegelman's I quote above into Google, and you will find the source: http://tinyurl.com/dxjqwho . I'm not given to making references up. I'm an academic, and I'm unhappy that you imply I might. In another quote in the same book, talking about a series he wrote/drew called Real Dreams, Spiegelman quotes a dream interpretation given by one of the characters: 'The party is obviously the Nazi party. The hostess bears an uncanny resemblance to Odilio Globocnik, head of the Polish SS.' There was no Polish SS. Globocnik was an Austrian Nazi who liquidated the Warsaw Ghetto, and may have been, ultimately, the person who devised the system of the extermination of the Jews in death camps - and yet Spiegelman, in a careless aside, calls him Polish. He has brought into the image of Poland and the Poles that Stalin fought very hard to create and promote.

I will try and turn this around. Suppose I wrote a book about a Pole's experience in pre-war Poland under the Soviet occupation. Suppose I depicted all the Polish Jews as collaborators and showed them (as many did) betraying the ethnic Poles, having them arrested, starved, worked to death, deported and killed. Suppose I wrote it as a graphic novel, and depicted all the Jews as pigs, knowing the significance of the pig, and of pork in Jewish culture? You would rightly call me racist, and you would rightly condemn me for giving such a one-sided picture, and yet you are apparently happy for Spiegelman to do this to the Polish people.

You say that there were some Nazi soldiers who helped the Jews. Are you saying the Poles are the moral equivalent of the Nazis? What makes me angry about this book is the way it feeds into the vilification of the Poles, when they fought so bravely against the Nazis and when they - having so much to lose - still very often tried to help the Jews. This kind of depiction matters, Jose. Too many people believe the image of the Poles depicted in Speigelman's book. I recently had a Facebook discussion with an American Jewish woman who said (never having been to Poland, and not having any close relatives who were in Europe during the war) that the Poles were worse than the Nazis and she would never believe a word that came from a Pole's mouth.

Maus is fatally flawed by its racism against the Poles.


message 19: by Jose (last edited Dec 28, 2012 09:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jose Martin I wouldn't mind at all your novel, it brings another perspective and is also partly fiction, just like maus. maus is not suposse to be an perfectly acurate historical text book. I have the idea that books, art in general, don't have the obligation to follow any tabus or ant restrictions. At the same time you are not obligate to like them.

Still you keep making an hipocrital observation, the Nazis that help Jews had also a lot to loose, their families and their lifes. As human beings are they not as importan or valiable as any Pole or Jew? Don't get me wrong I'm not defending Nazis, thay had a horrible philosophy. But not all were bad why don't you care that they are all cats. Not all Jews were inocent and defendless, as you said they gave Poles away to the Nazisstill they are all mice, why isn't that important?

I entered the link you gave me but the page didn't load, so I did as you sugested me and I google your words and the first thing that pop up was your review and nothing more.


Danuta That's odd. I click on that link and I get straight to the book. It's in Google books, it's Art Speigelman: Conversations, and it's edited by Joseph Witek. You can find the original article here: http://www.laweekly.com/1998-11-19/ar... The article was published on Wednesday November 11th 1998, it is called The 5000-Pound Maus.

You are still making an equivalent between Nazis and Poles. There is no equivalent in this context. Any Nazi soldier found helping the Jews would have been in trouble, yes. Towards the end of the war, he might well have been executed, earlier on, possibly imprisoned, possibly removed from camp duties and sent to the front. It all depends on what he did and how and when he did it. His family - including his children - would not have been killed or sent to a slave labour camp or a death camp. Any Poles so accused faced a terrible death, usually by short-drop hanging, and their families, including children, would be sent to slave labour camps where they would die of starvation. There was no equivalent.

In this war, the Nazis were the aggressors. The Poles were among their victims. There is a big difference here.

And no, I don't care that the Nazis are all depicted as cats. It isn't demeaning. There are a lot of positive connotations attached to cats - in western literature, cats are beautiful, lucky, clever, sometimes cruel, often brave, gods, sometimes. Mice, particularly in US literature, are cute and clever. Pigs are seen as unclean animals in Jewish and Muslim cultures, and are also subject to certain prohibitions is early Christianity.

Fiction must be truthful if it is dealing in truth, because fiction is powerful. I think it shows respect for fiction to insist it explores truth, not base itself on prejudice.


message 21: by Jose (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jose Martin Still did you know that Jews were draw as rats and mice in german propaganda?

I just read the article. With no intention to offend you, I really think you are overreacting. I was joke making reference to his work, it was not a partculary funny joke, but a joke non the less. Again I think people can make jokes of anything they want.

I lve this book I think it's great. And I 'm not trying to change your opinion, if this types of things spoild the book for youit is perfectly ok. And I really don't care too much If my opinions make you think less of me

But I have to go. Have a nice day.


Danuta Jose, I never think less of anyone for expressing their opinion. We disagree - that's fine. I enjoy a good argument.


message 23: by Sue (new)

Sue An interesting question is this. Who could an author safely depict as swine/pigs (IF he wished to do so) and the book be publishable?

Very few minority groups surely? Could Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, for example, be portrayed like that? Surely not. And rightly so too.

Why then is it OK to portray Poles that way?

Is it that some minority groups are "unter", while some are "uber"?

And, if so, does that show that we, the human race, have learnt nothing at all from this intensive memorialising of the crimes of the Axis Powers in WW2?


message 24: by Penny (new) - rated it 1 star

Penny Grubb I think Danuta makes the arguments here very powerfully. Fiction *is* a powerful tool. Military tools based on fiction scenarios are used to inure soldiers to killing. That might or might not be a good/bad thing to do (that's a whole other argument) but it makes the case that fiction can change people's perceptions, their actions, the way they perceive and treat others. Fiction can vilify whole populations, making people believe that someone can be deemed inferior by the colour of their skin, the size of their shoes, the place of their birth etc etc. The next step is that it's OK to bully, to harm, to kill on these same grounds. Maus could have been a good book, but it is fatally flawed by the author's ingrained prejudice.


message 25: by Dave (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Glorioso Maus is a great work
Prejudice thoughts exist on many levels
I think that is made clear by this work
I don't see any flaw in his portrayals of any race as any animal
The point is that most people view someone's difference often in a negative manner
The other point is most humans will protect themselves over others
Compassion and unselfishness was severely tested during the holicaust
Some passed
Some failed

I am Italian
I was more shocked that the Jewish writer made Jews rodents than the polish pigs
If anything the nazis as cats, hunters was offensive

Yet, obviously it struck a nerve that the polish were made pigs

I am just expressing my thoughts

Dave


Natalie Hanna I think it would've been practically impossible to write/draw such a novel without offending someone or some race in the process especially with a touchy topic such as the Holocaust. I believe that Spiegleman was simply trying to portray the events and the experiences of his father during the Holocaust, and he was trying to do so in the most accurate way possible. So to avoid offending Polish people by representing them by a more likable animal would've very likely changed the mood of the book and therefore the meaning of the experiences that Spiegleman wished to portray.
Yet, I wouldn't say that his decision was careless or completely prejudice as he includes the stories of the Poles who helped his family and kept them safe as well as those who betrayed them. This is what his father experienced and based on these experiences came his opinions about the Poles. Even if it is not historically correct overall, it is historically and emotionally correct in Vladek's eyes, which is what the author ultimately wants to portray to his audience. If it was adjusted in any way so that it wouldn't offend anyone, it would not have reached the intended goals.

Besides, the best works of literature and art are the most evocative and controversial works.


message 27: by Katya (new) - rated it 1 star

Katya Danuta, I appreciated reading your well-reasoned and detailed comments. I appreciate that you made an effort to kindly and gently educate people on the complex history of this time period and to draw attention to the unfortunate (and generally ignorant) bigotry that many are still willing to overlook or even defend.

I agree that Spiegelman's book, due to its inherent racism, missed out on the potential it had to be a very good book... aside from that I found it very moving.


Danuta Thank you, Katya. A point I should perhaps have raised in relation to the role of fiction: Maus, of course, is not fiction. It's biography which makes the lack of balance in the depiction of Poles even more problematic. The book is used in schools to teach about the Holocaust. It's important that the book is factually accurate.


Ronando Danuta, Is it possible that you might be taking offense a little to quickly? Are you sure you're not bringing your own prejudices to the table? For example, in the cat-mouse food chain, the cats are Nazis. I happen to love cats, (a dog lover at heart but I love virtually all mammals). Using your logic, could I too not be offended that Spiegelman used cats for Nazis?

Before you gave your opinion, did you make an effort to look at what Spiegelman's thoughts were on the subject? If you go here https://answers.yahoo.com/question/in... you'll see this was said about his rationale,

“Note that there are Poles and Germans who are portrayed sympathetically throughout the story and Jews, such as Yidl, who are not. As for the Poles, Spiegelman's reasons are complicated—he's ambivalent towards Poland because of his upbringing, so he wanted an ambivalent animal; pigs are not part of the cat-mouse food chain, and are thus neutral towards mice; pigs are simply not as negative in American culture (his example being Porky Pig); the Nazis called the Poles "swine," which makes pigs a logical choice, given that the Jews, who were called "vermin," are mice; the metaphor works because pigs are not exterminated like mice, but still exploited; and so forth.”

Take special note to the comments of Harvey Pekar and Spiegelman's response.
BOLHAFNER: Harvey Pekar has commented that he feels you shouldn't have used mice for any of it. He thinks it would have had more impact if you had used people, and is especially critical of your using pigs for the Poles.

SPIEGELMAN: And I'm unhappy that so many readers thought it was OK to use vermin for Jews but not pigs for Poles.

Danuta, you take great offense at Poles depicted as pigs, but it's ok for Jews to be depicted as vermin. I have to borrow a quote from one of my favorite authors here, "It’s like you have installed a tripwire in your mind, and you’re just waiting for people to cross it."


Danuta Ronando, thank you for your comments. I think the choice of mice has been addressed several times above - there is a long tradition in narrative of mice as brave 'underdogs' (too much animal imagery here!). Spiegelman's own comments (see thread above) show that he was not as neutral as you suggest in his choice of animals. I's also suggest hat it;s a bit ingenuous of him to say there is an issue in his own selection of animals to represent his own people.

I wonder if you are aware of the constant vilification of Poles as being responsible for, or at least collaborating in, the Nazi death camps? It's completely untrue - Poles were victims of a policy almost as close to genocide as that carried out against the Jews, but the myth persists. This is not to say the problem of anti-Semitism didn't rear its head in Poland as it did across Europe, but the Polish Jews were the largest and most stable population of Jews in Europe - they had good reasons to stay there over the centuries.


Ronando Danuta, the fact that it has been addressed does not diminish the validity of the issue. People get offended at the drop of a hat. For example, to say anything constructively critical of Israel results in a tsunami blowback of "anti Semite!" without addressing the issue.

It just appears that you give such an abysmally low rating over the fact that Poles are pigs, disregarding everything that was good in the book. Yes, you give it lip service, but your final review, one star, is based on Poles represented as pigs.

This is not too unlike voters picking a candidate because, "that other guy is gonna take my guns! And I don't want to support a President who's gonna take my guns!" Their perspective is so myopic that the are unable to see anything else but that one issue, which is really, based on perception, not fact.

You said, " I couldn't give a decent rating to a book that depicted black people, Muslims or gays as pigs, and I can't give a good rating to a book that depicts Poles as pigs." What you did is focus on one thing alone, dismissing the experience, dismissing the murders, the Holocaust all for the sake of Political Correctness. Which is wrong.

Why not dismiss Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice because he has a Venetian Jewish moneylender (William is obviously anti Semitic). But why stop there? Why not dismiss all of his works for the same reason?

It is unjust to rate such a book for the reason you give; you have taken the story out of context. It was a story of his father's experience, a memoir, yet you dismiss everything of value with, your one star review, because your perception is that ANYONE depicted as pigs is an injustice, and to hell with the rest of the story.

Maud deserves better.


Ronando Oops, Maus, deserves better. I am on my phone and there is no edit option.


Danuta I was wondering about Maud...

I think I gave the one star review to alert people to the problems with this book. I do say, in the review itself, that it is a powerful and moving piece. Re Shakespeare and Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare was writing in and of his time and people who stage the play these days are very aware of the issues here and bring different interpretations to the representation of Shylock - which, interestingly, demonstrate that within the play, the possibility of a sympathetic Shylock exists. No one who watches or reads the play is unaware of the issue.

People who read Maus take the representations of Polish people at face value - the value Spiegelman has given them - collaborators, anti-Semites and pigs. Very few people know the history of the Polish people under Nazi rule - the horrors of that occupation are overshadowed by the horrors of the Holocaust.

To give you an example of the kind of ignorance that is out there - in the course of a debate about Poland and the the 1939-45 war, one woman said that the Polish government might not have built the camps but they didn't oppose them. To my amazement, I was the only person on the thread who was aware that there was no Polish government during the Nazi occupation, unlike, for example, in France where the French authorities cooperated in the round-up and deportation of the French Jews.

So the cases are different and I am trying to alert people to something they don't know about as much of the history was hidden behind the iron curtain. Stalin wanted to vilify the Poles who fought against the Nazis and was very successful in doing this. He was happy to spread the stories of extreme anti-Semitism. You should read Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands. There's a brief outline and synopsis on this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodlands


Ronando And, you are unable to alert people with a three star review? I hammer on the one star review because that is your "final say," your summation. It, along with everyone else's star review is taken in aggregate and averaged to a final star review for all to see, and you contribution is but one star.

Danuta, you are anything but ignorant and you appear more than reasonable in exchanging dialogue (where others would have simply splashed acid in my face, torched me and told me to F-Off) and I know you stand resolute in your decision, and there is no deviating your course (there never is room for changing of one's opinion...ever, be it in books, politics or religion, etc.).

However, I still am attempting to make clear that you are being disingenuous and (dare I say) unfair in your review in a few points.

1) When you say, "It's a powerful piece, and tells the story of one family's experiences of the Holocaust in grim and gripping detail. [I]t's also an amazing exploration of the relationship between a father and son. I'd love to give it 5 stars..." but you only give it one star, invalidating everything you said previously. Might I remind you, that the roll-over definition of one star is "did not like it." I say you are disingenuous because your opening words are not those of a person who "did not like the book." ..Checkmate.

2) You do not get to say these types of statements while attempting to maintain integrity, "Apparently, when Spieglaman was challenged about the way he depicts Poles in this book, he said 'Stop squealing.' I haven't a source for this quote, and I hope it is wrong." If you can't provide a proper link you are merely passing on hearsay, gossip, slander ...or libel, I always get those two mixed up. You are profiting on an unsubstantiated statement to help prop up your argument. In short, it is false.

3) You end your high praise of the book with "Powerful? Yes. Racist? Yes." and casually walk away, washing your hands. I see many people use words like racist and sexist without really understanding what they mean. Racist means "the belief that some races of people are better than others, a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, racial prejudice or discrimination, a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another, the racism that was the basis of apartheid, poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race, etc., ad nausium". So, here we see Jews, and not just Jews but a Jewish man telling his story, of his persecution of his witness to murder of his witness to the Holocaust and you label him "racist." ....and you consider your opinion of the Jews that might hold whatever prejudicial feelings they have of Poles or the French or whomever as racist (whilst they flee for their very lives) is just? I pray you are never on the side that pulls my sorry ass out of an oven...Checkmate

4) This is a memoir. A memoir..."a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private that took place in the author's life." If ANY Jews (or any Allied survivors at the time) that came out of the Holocaust with a few biases or prejudices against pretty much anyone (and I include us Yanks in that pool of judgement, we arrived way too late into the fray) don't you think you can give them a break? Don't you think that they maybe deserve a little room to have their biased opinions, having just walked out of gas chamber? Basically, "Yes, he can say that, he's a Jew pulled out of the mouth of the Holocaust his parents were turned into ashes."

You are holding 21st century political correctness over a group of people during the Holocaust, and that is, without a doubt, uncalled for, unfair...complete selfish BS. Your calling of Art Spiegelman (and his father) racist puts you in the same group of people who call Huck Finn racist.

..Checkmate.

That's my last card. I think I hammered the point as much as I can. I've done my best not to turn this into a flame war (like so many idiots do online, the savages) and I apologize for going on like a babbling lunatic, but I just consider giving unfair, unjust, uncalled for, one star reviews of book an act that is up their next to hurting puppies and kittens. Especially when it is a memoir such as Maus.


Danuta 1. Ronando, I have to say that despite all the power of the book, I did not like it. It feeds into a pernicious lie.

2. If you'd read your way through the thread, you would see that I gave two links to the article where Spiegelman makes the comment. This is one: http://www.laweekly.com/1998-11-19/ar...

3. In this memoir, Spiegelman is careful in other places not to stereotype race. He shows Vladek's own racism against blacks and shows how wrong and contentious this is. His depiction of the Poles is deeply stereotyped and I'm afraid that Spiegelman's comments suggest this is how he feels himself. The exact words attributed to him in the article (and he has never claimed he did not say this are: "However, in the last decade there's been mostly a very understanding and supportive response, certainly within the community of the directly affected and afflicted. And a cry - a squeal, let's say - of outrage from the Polish community." Two points - he talks about the community directly affected and afflicted - but the Polish community was very much directly affected and afflicted. Nazi crimes against the Polish nation claimed the lives of 2.77 million ethnic Poles, and around 3 million Polish Jews. A 'squeal'? Spiegelman's contempt in clear here.

3. So, yes, racist. The point is that what is depicted in this book is not just Vladek's opinion of the Poles, but Art Spiegelman's opinion of these other victims of Nazi war crimes. Read Bloodlands. You need to know more about this.

4. A memoir can reflect the opinions of the person about whom it is written, or the opinions of the writer. But we look doubtfully at memoirs that express racist views against Black Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, Jews - but it seems no one worries about racism against other groups. No, it is not OK to perpetuate these myths. This is why I don't like the book and why I gave it 1 star. Huckleberry Finn was written at a very different time with very different social attitudes. Anyone reading the book knows this - same as with Shakespeare. Maus is very current. When Spiegelman wrote it, attitudes to racism were similar to what they are now - though there was and is an attitude among the truly 'politically correct' that you can't be racist against while people, which, in my view, is arrant nonsense.

I'm happy to debate with you in a way that shows we respect (if disagree with) each other's views. But do, please, read Bloodlands. I think you will find it illuminating. It may not change your mind about Maus - it probably won't - but it will give you a clearer idea of where I'm coming from.


message 36: by Ronando (last edited Oct 11, 2014 11:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ronando And if it were a black man's memoir on his or his father's experience as a slave in the South, you would call him a racist for hating whites of that era?

I will reread Maus, to scrutinize any potential inherent racism, but I already know, I will not judge it out of context, the way that I believe you are doing.


Danuta That rather assumes that the Poles in WWII were equivalent to the slave owners of the southern states of the US.

Read Bloodlands. You don't have the full history of Eastern Europe.


Cindee I thought it was rather racist too, but I thought it was intentional (it may or may not have been) and that it was fitting because of the context of the story. I'm sorry that you were personally offended by it, I do hope that Spiegelman did not intend that.


Ronando I find it interesting that people are unable to differentiate between "a racist book" and a book that is a memoir of a person's father who lived through the Holocaust who just might happen to have some "racist" tendencies.

There is a difference, yet I know how people LOVE to carry a hair trigger around with them, yelling "Racist! Racist! Racist!" when in fact what they might be referring to or commenting on is more of a stereotype or a prejudice.

Try to comprehend that prejudice is a negative thought someone might have about a group of people. Often it's an ethnic or racial group. Racism is a kind of prejudice where someone thinks one race is superior over another. It's an unconscious perception of a racial hierarchy where whites (or any ethnicity or nationality) are consistently ranked above people of color having more to do with physical traits than anything else. This is not the case with Maus.

One could benefit from reading a little more on prejudice, stereotypes and racism.
http://quizlet.com/12281503/chapter-5...

Stereotype: A belief or association that links a whole group of people with certain traits of characteristics

Racism: Prejudice and discrimination based on a person's racial background or institutional and cultural practices that promote the domination of one racial group over another


back to top