Comics can be fun, and comics can be serious.  This week, the Major Spoilers crew takes a look at Maus by Art Spiegelman.

From the Wiki:
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman, is a biography of the author’s father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. It alternates between descriptions of Vladek’s life in Poland before and during the Second World War and Vladek’s later life in the Rego Park neighborhood of New York City. The work is a graphic narrative in which Jews are depicted as mice, while Germans are depicted as cats. It is the only comic book ever to have won a Pulitzer Prize.

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  1. litanyofthieves on

    There’s a lot to be said about this comic, from its content to its attention in the media. Enough has been said about Maus to fill its covers 10 times over with reviews, interpretations, press coverage and more. I think that the most important thing about Maus to me, is the fact that it was the comic that brought me back into the fold in high school. I hadn’t read comics since about grade 7, and a friend lent me Maus, which I couldn’t put down. As a person of Jewish descent, I recall stories from my Grandparents’ friends when I was younger, about being lucky enough to get out of Poland and other parts of Europe before the Holocaust, and I read this and understood better the survivor’s guilt they had about leaving behind family and friends to the Nazi Hate Machine.

    One thing about this book that I liked was that it briefly confronted how common Jew Hate was even before the rise of the Nazi Party (though it was very brief). I think in hindsight people tend to forget that an event like the Holocaust does not happen in a vacuum – the attitudes and zeitgeist of the years surrounding are part and parcel of the conditions that created places like Auschwitz. There were plenty of people who weren’t card-carrying Nazi Party members who either partially or wholly agreed with Hitler’s position on the Jews, and their silent acceptance of what was happening contributed to the Final Solution.

    As a small aside, while Maus deserves its accolades for telling an important story that is accessible to a wide variety of ages, I am actually disappointed that, over 20 years later, it is STILL the only comic to win a Pulitzer Prize. That, to me, is shameful. I think a lot of people saw Maus as something that helped give comics a little more credibility as something more than kiddie tales, but clearly more headway still needs to be made.

  2. Maus is a fantastic story. While you’re on the topic it may be helpful to bring up similar works such as Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi).

  3. Another thought: The strength of Maus, Persepolis and similar non-fiction comics lie not primarily in how well they tell a true story but in how they address issues such as race and oppression. The very fact that these works are non-fiction emphasizes the reality of these problems/issues in a way that fiction does not. My question is this — what role does traditional fiction comics have in addressing these issues? Is there an inherent limitation when it comes to fiction and addressing serious issues?

    I have my own ideas on these questions, but would love to hear your thoughts…

  4. Some companion music while reading or for reflection on Maus are as follows.
    Schindlers List Theme (1993) by John Williams, Solo violin by Itzhak Perlman
    Quartet for the End of Tie (1940) Oliver Messian – Written in a German P.O.W. camp.
    Symphony # 1 (Titan) Movement 3 (1888?) Premired 1889, final revision 1906.

    Related work Moses und Aron by Arnold Schoenberg (pronounced shern-berg) (1932)

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