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The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
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's review
Jan 25, 09

bookshelves: book-a-week-2009
Read in January, 2009

Maus is a biographical graphic novel telling the story of the author's father, Vladek Spiegelman, his life in Poland before the second world war and his experiences in Auschwitz. The book uses the device of representing different nationalities as animals, drawn in a simple cartoon fashion - the Jews are represented by mice, the Poles are pigs, the Germans are cats and so on. This initially seems like a simplistic and heavy handed metaphor, but depth and complexity of the narrative quickly becomes apparent. In fact, the very simplicity of the style underlines and accentuates the true horrors of the holocaust.

The book does not pull any punches, and it is particularly honest in its portrayal of the author's difficult relationship with his father who is shown as a rather mean spirited and manipulative old man. In contrast, Vladek during the war is shown as a brave and resourceful young man, prepared to take risks to help and protect others. The book also examines the author's difficulties in composing the narrative and trying to understand exactly what his father and mother experienced.

This is a book that should be compulsory reading, particularly when we have a German Pope who thinks that it is acceptable for his Bishops to say that the holocaust is "lies, lies, all lies" and for a Jewish theologian to say that there is nothing wrong with the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. The events described in Maus are still within living memory, and they should not, must not, be denied lest they happen again.

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