January 30, 2022 10:40 AM - Subscribe

A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author's father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats. Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father into an astonishing retelling of one of history's most unspeakable tragedies. It is an unforgettable story of survival and a disarming look at the legacy of trauma.
posted by one for the books (9 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I remember reading this book because it was a comic book and it was on my dad's bookshelf. I was probably in middle school at the time. I remember as much of art's parents arguing about coat hangers as I do about the Nazis. I understood that it was a real story but told with mice, and I think that was part of why it stuck in my head all these years. Seeing it in the news again reminds me of the power of simple lines and real stories.
posted by rebent at 11:24 AM on January 30, 2022

The book tells not only the story of Art Spiegelman's father's Holocaust experience, but also the way it formed his character and the resulting difficulties later between father and son. It's a Holocaust book, yes, but also with a lesson for anyone trying to grasp a parent's experience in different historical circumstances from one's own.
posted by zadcat at 2:55 PM on January 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

No matter how familiar you thought you were with the horror of the Holocaust, reading its story peopled by cartoon cats and mice jolts you into seeing it afresh. That's all part of this book's extraordinary power and one of the reasons its comics format is so crucial to its success. This medium can do anything and Maus offers undeniable proof of that.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:00 PM on January 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

The moments I turned a page and saw the actual photos of his brother and of his father as a young man will probably stay with me my whole life. And like rebent says, when I think about Maus I always think about his depiction of his father in his old age, messing around with empty cereal boxes and arguing with everybody over nothing.
posted by acantha at 5:07 PM on January 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

One of the most powerful books I've ever read.
posted by kyrademon at 5:57 PM on January 30, 2022

I saw someone I follow on Twitter saying that while they think the decision but the school board was dumb, Mais never worked for them as a piece of art and they bounced off the framing device. I was a bit shocked, because it had such a powerful impact on me when I read it. It took someone saying it didn't work for them for me to see how much I still remember.
posted by Carillon at 9:29 AM on January 31, 2022

I just finished rereading Maus, and it's as moving and effecting as it was before. In particular, there's a couple of pages late in volume 2 where Vladek is telling his son of their extended family and how many of them didn't survive the Holocaust. (In some cases, he knows how they died, and in other cases all he knows is they're gone forever.) And Art Spiegelman provided portraits of each as a mouse that are simultaneously similar and yet unique.

The names on those few pages stand for the millions who died, and yet also are indelibly individuals whose lives are lost to the callousness and lack of empathy of the Nazi regime and their collaborators.
posted by Gelatin at 9:16 AM on February 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I can remember reading this again in library school and the whole impact of generational trauma hit me like a tidal wave. We'd read Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee and Warriors Don't Cry before Maus and I still don't know if it was the culmination of all those books or if Maus just did an exceptional job of making it clear or not. But at the end of the class, I had a completely different understanding of the absolute and lasting impact of the horrors of our world on the humans that survive. I thought I understood how hard it was to live through something like the Holocaust or Jim Crow, but seeing clearly in mice and cats made the reality of how fucked up surviving makes us. To this little white girl, it made me realize that so many of the "normal" responses I expected from the people around me were behaviors that can only be "normal" in a safe world. That expected everyone to act like a person who was always treated as a person, with food, safety, and kindness was not only naïve as fuck but also detrimental to those around me.

Maus made me a kinder person. It made me realize that those people in my life that had Lived Through Shit were still Living Through Shit even though it looked like the danger was passed. Because the things that help you survive horrors don't always help you thrive when the horrors are gone. And let's be honest, just because the horrors passed and you survived is no guarantee that the horrors won't come back and that you will survive them when they do.

Out of all the times to take such a book out of the hands of children and young adults, the midst of a global pandemic and rising fascism seems to be the worst time to do so. If it's ever acceptable.
posted by teleri025 at 1:21 PM on February 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

Maus is one of the most astonishing books I've ever read. I think part of it is the cognitive dissonance of the horrors depicted in such a straightforward unromantisized way, combined by my sheer pleasure (as a writer and artist) of the perfection of the storytelling about storytelling using both images and words. It's such a beautiful demonstration of the medium.
One of the things that really stood out for me was the honest way Spiegelman shows his relationship with his father. Part love, part exasperation and irritation, part respect. How rare is that.
And that's not even touching on how effective it is in telling a story that can't, really, be told. An essential book.
posted by Zumbador at 8:26 PM on February 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

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