Thursday, 19 June 2014
Don’t you even dare nag to me that it’s not a novel. It’s not a comic book; it’s a graphic novel. *points* It’s in the name. And of all graphic novels, this one definitely deserves to be reviewed. (Well, V for Vendetta is also awesome, but I’ve already read that one years ago.)
Maus is the very meta story about Vladek Spiegelman; the author’s father, and his memories of the second world war. In this story the Jews are portrayed as mice and the Germans as cats. (FYI: The Polish are pigs, French are frogs, Americans are dogs, and the Swedes are deer.)
And of course it’s a really sad story. Vladek continuously crawls from one eye of the needle through the next, until at last he’s caught and he and his wife are brought to Auschwitz. And even then Vladek manages to survive through bribing and cheer luck…
It’s not nice to hear how the Hungarian prisoners were made to jump in huge pits, to be showered in gasoline. How the fat of the burning bodies was shovelled out and poured back over them so they’d burn better. Or how Vladek, ill with typhus, had to step on slippery dead bodies to go to the lavatory, thinking he could fall and be the next body to be stepped on.
And yet it’s not just his story, but also the author’s story as he interviews his father about his past – a father who won’t throw away a damn thing and is extremely stingy; who would never trust a “shvartser” (African American) and drives his family mad with his high demands. We see how the author struggles with him, and how he feels about having parents that survived the war, competing with a brother he never knew but for a photograph in his parent’s bedroom. We see him struggling as he writes, sometimes saying things like “if this was real life, you wouldn’t have let me talk for this long”, and thus expertly breaking the fourth wall.
One thing that bothered me is that the father speaks English quite poorly, which was also translated into the Dutch version I borrowed. Especially ‘the’, ‘there’ and ‘their’ seems to be misused by him. And in a volume 2 cm thick, it gets on your nerves after a while.
I think this novel deserves all the praise and prizes it has earned over the years, and I hope it will be read for many years to come.
Until next time,