Saturday, November 29, 2008

Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began - Art Spiegelman

I have read many many books written and movies made on the horrors and sufferings of the people during WW II in the German concentration camps. Here is another one, however with a twist. Unlike the others I have read, this one is a graphics novel. This book is the second in the Maus- A Survivor's tale , and I haven't read the part 1. This book had also won the Pulitzer price for alternate fiction in 1992.

Written by Art Spiegelman, born to Polish parents, who survived the Auschwitz during the final stages of the German concentration camps, before migrating to Sweden ( where Artie was born) and later moving to the US. This book is his recollection of those days through his conversation with his ailing father ,Vladek.

The book has two parallel narratives. One, the current state of affairs of his father, after his wife ( second wife Mala) deserted him unable to withstand his whims, Art and his wife comes to visit him and to give him the necessary support. While being with his father , Art takes him through the memory lanes of Auschwitz, nudging him to re-tell those stories of horror and survival. As Vladek re-live those moments with his son, being separated with his wife at Auschwitz, surviving every day while, many of his prisoners dying all around him , while few others ending up as smoke in those dreaded chimneys.

The stories are not different from what we have red elsewhere , but the visual and the associated conversation has a very different effect. He also engaged in using the metaphorical approach in drawing people of each country. The Jews are mice, Germans are cats , French Frogs, Poles are drawn as pig, Americans as dog etc..

Even though he has survived the holocaust, the ghost of those horrors are with them through their lives, "I'd rather kill myself than live through ... everything Vladek went through. It's a miracle he survived." ... "In some ways he didn't survive,"...

Though the medium of expression is through graphics, it does have the same intensity and the irony that one experience while reading the regular fiction. Art Spiegelman have succeeded in bringing out those elements of the life in Aushwitz and the after effects of those through his portrayal of his father.

My thoughts are summed up in these words by his father, "Look at how many books have already been written about the holocaust. What's the point ?People haven't changed... may be they need a newer, bigger holocaust".

The book has its own funny moments , true to the graphics novel genre.. I, particularly liked this one..
"Samuel Becket once said: "Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness"
"on the other hand, he SAID it"

Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began
Art Spiegelman
Pantheon Book , Newyork
136 Pages

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