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Maus: holocaust comic

Maus I: My Father Bleeds History


Now there's a genre you don't come across very often: holocaust comics. Darkness and human misery I thought I got plenty of with Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches but this graphic novel pushes the envelope a tad further. While Maus' core strength is the story told in the personal idiom of the father who had to live through the ordeal -- you soon learn to respect the creative way that Spiegelman arranges his images to make the whole thing work. Jews are mice; Gentiles are pigs and Nazis are cats...all in a sort of Animal Farm telling of history which at the end of Part I takes us to the gates of Auschwitz.

So simple really when you think about it -- a simple story you'd tell the offspring -- a once upon a time horror that happened before you were born.
["And just quietly, son, I can't help myself as I still live through it day in day day out..."]
As a recollection offered as an oral account it would have had a sort of talking head interest -- just another voice from among those who survived the 'Final Solution'. Even a pictorial would pass master as historical research...

But as a comic? Well, it takes off into a totally different dimension. And while I don't make a habit of reading such literature I did seek out and read this graphic work only because it was a comic...

And it is so deceptive. The voices engage with your head and demand to take you back to the ghettoes and the pogroms: to the time when these human beings had to survive being hunted down ... like mice.

But it wasn't for me saddening to read Maus. Despite the horrors they had to experience -- yes even before the gates of Auschwitz -- I learnt to respect these people for the way they fought to survive. Maus regrettably is a survival manual even for those who became Jewish police or informants or chose to look after themselves instead of others...Surviving, that is, in the context of massive Barbarism and our own frailties and indecisions.

I mean: if you were in their shoes, what would you do?


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