Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Maus I

I've been meaning to read Maus for quite awhile.  Back in school, people recommended it to me, saying how good it is.  Later both my brother and dad read it and loved it.  My brother lent it to me and it's been sitting on my shelf since then.  But today, since I wasn't feeling great, I decided that reading Maus was a good use of my time. 

Maus is a Holocaust story.  The comic artist Art Spiegelman wants to get his father's Holocaust story down.  So he goes over to his father's house on a series of visits to hear the tale, later turning it into this comic.  He's made the people into animals, with the Jewish people of the tale mice (and the Gestapo are cats, which I thought was a nice touch). 

Spiegelman's father, Vladek, has remarried, so we see scenes from his new life interspersed around his Holocaust tale as a framing narrative.  Vladek is still very much in love with Anja, Spiegelman's mother who survived the war but later commit suicide. 

The story starts off before the war, showing what Vladek's life was like before the Nazis invaded Poland.  Vladek was a very eligible bachelor prior to meeting and falling in love with Anja.  Anja was from a wealthy family who lived in a nearby town.  The family prospered until the Nazis arrived; although they managed to stay together for quite a long time, they lost their fancy lifestyle and were slowly pulled apart. 

This Holocaust story is broken up by scenes from Vladek's present life.  He has remarried a woman named Mala who also survived the war.  The two do not get along.  Spiegelman ends up in the middle of their domestic fights: Vladek says they are always arguing (generally about money) and Mala says she feels like she is stuck in a prison with a very miserly man.  This argument is at odds with Vladek's earlier tale where he has been paying people off left and right in an attempt to keep his family alive and together.   

Maus I ends with Anja and Vladek, the last two of the family, trying to make it to nearby Hungary.  But they were sold out by the smugglers who were helping them and have been taken to Auschwitz.  But it's nearing the end of the war, so I'm very much interested to see where things go from here.

Oh, an important note: Vladek has just admitted to his son that he burned Anja's diaries after she died.  He found the memories too painful to deal with in the aftermath of her suicide.

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