Where should I commence to appraise this book? Must I begin from the detail that MAUS is a gratifying story of Vladek and Art OR that it is a sheer enlightenment through simplicity?
Art Spiegelman in this astounding graphic novel reveals a fractured father-son relationship whilst focusing on the perils of the Holocaust. The story is set in Rego Park, NY where Art Spiegelman, a cartoonist tries to verbalize and grasp with his father and the Holocaust.
Written over a period of thirteen years, MAUS comprises of two volumes.
Volume I:-My Father Bleeds History:- The narrative initiates in the town of Czestochowa in Poland; native soil of Vladek Spiegelman(Art’s father).Young and vivacious Vladek is into the textile business who after having a torrid affair with Lucia ends up marrying a much wealthier Anja Zylberberg. Over the years Vladek is drafted into the Polish army where he endures severe anguish as a prisoner of war, captured by the Nazis. After his release when he heads back home to see his infant son Richieu, the family is forced into hiding as the Nazis started to hound the Jews.
Volume II:-And Here My troubles Begin:- Encompasses Vladek’s experiences in Auschwitz and his familiarities with Anja’s existence in the neighboring camp,Birkenau. Finally, the prisoners are freed leading to the collapse of the Germans; however Vladek undergoes a tedious journey to Sosnowiec to be reunited with Anja.
The plot shifts back and forth from illustrating Vladek’s saga to the present day when he is trying to put in picture the chronicles for his son Art. The current events reveal Vladek’s tryst with medical disabilities and his heart-wrenching yearning to bond with his only son during his twilight years.
Art,the only surviving child of Vladek could never comprehend with his father’s suffrage and melancholic state. “I mean,I can’t even make any sense out of my relationship with my father…How am I supposed to make any sense out of Auschwitz?…Of the Holocaust?”
Art’s effort to identify with his father’s life is delineated throughout the novel when he questions Vladek on Anja’s suicide or life in the concentration camps. Vladek on the other hand, still relives the horror of the Holocaust in his trivial arguments with Mala or his reminiscing of the war. It is justly said that to understand another’s horror one has to relive it. Maybe Art being raised in New York, could not identify with Vladek’s pain of losing Richieu, Anja and Auschwitz. He tried to find a “normal” father in Vladek; blaming Vladek for all the chaos in his life.
The characterization of the Jews as “Mice” and the Nazis as “Cats” is accurately symbolic as the venomous predators and eternal nemesis. The depiction of these characters in various graphical sketches fetches emotions of factual individuals bringing a huge lump in your throat; especially when Art feels guilty of blaming his father for his mother’s suicide. The pain in Art’s words in failing to build affection towards his father makes you hypothesize about the numerous Holocaust survivors and their struggle to bond with their children. A victim of any kind faces a genuine struggle to find acceptance and understanding in the aftermath life. Similarly, Vladek wished he could have found an undying bond with Art in all his solitary being.
MAUS is not a run of the mill comic; it is incorporation of the unspoken sentiments and assumed fallacies.