After a rather emotionally draining screening of Schindler’s List today as a part of my Literature and History module, I wanted to step backwards to my reading of Maus last week. Although I felt I understood its story, its recollections of such a horrific way of life, I feel it took me until today to view a visual example to understand the many emotions and themes it covers.
Maus, or rather The Complete Maus is the very first piece of the Graphic Novel genre I have read. It’s visual aids and comic strip beginnings allow its plot to move at an entirely different rate to all other literature. It’s incorporation and equal spread of image to text, places the story on its own unique path; allowing it to speed up or slow down visually alongside the movement of the narrative.
One of the major arguments surrounding the text is brought up with its charactiscation of animals, some feel this removes its readers from its horror, others can view it as a fixed interpretation of our identity and culture. Are we Jews and subsequently a mouse, or German and then a cat or a polish pig? It removes our ability to be both and in turn fixates the Nazi’s own way of thinking to this narrative. It’s certainly a very clever interpretation of a surviver’s story; allowing its readers to relate, yet also distant ourselves. One that allows the thoughts and feelings of the victims and the powerful to coincide.
Furthermore, by using such a distinct format, this autobiographical account is as structured as The Final Solution; depicting many parallels as its narration continues. Yet Spiegelman intertwines this past within the present, firstly allowing some lighter relief to the barbaric tale being told, yet also reminding us how as readers we are a step behind. Art, himself has not lived through these events, his version is an interpretation, a very close one but nevertheless still a retelling. That even Vladek version is still just one of thousands, stories upon stories that even added together could never truly recreate the holocaust.
Overall Maus captures the holocaust and the subsequent life of a survivor unlike any other literature I have read, its mixture of images and text graphically produced the events as realistic yet removed in the depictions of animals. It truly made me think about our cultural identity, or our believes and my amaze to those who survived and died alike in these terrible condition. It is a piece of literature I feel everyone should read, if not how will we learn from our mistakes? Through such presentations of the holocaust, the victims are alive once more; and we must never forget them.