A Holocaust story in graphic narrative
The Hebrew translation was published by the Mineged Publishing Company
Maus is a two-part story of the survival against all odds of Vladek Spiegelman, the author’s father. The second part, which has recently been published in Hebrew, tells the story of a Holocaust survivor, beginning with his childhood in Poland through the death camps (“Auschwitz was built in a town called Auschwitzin. I used to go there often before the war, selling clothing... they took away our papers, our clothing, our hair...”), ending with his life as an immigrant in New York (”We had never been on a plane before. Some were afraid to go, but I walked right in... I said to them, ’Nu, don’t worry, let the plane explode, at least we’ll be out of Poland’”).
The story of the complex relationship between the author and his aging father is the background story, on some level also manifesting the intricate relationship between the generation of survivors and thier children.
The witty and exceptional way Spiegelman chose to tell the stories and deal with history itself – presenting the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, and the Poles as pigs – enables us to somewhat distance ourselves from the historical events, as we have experienced them over the years, and view them from a new angle, feeling both wonder and identification.
Even today, 25 years after Maus was first published, it is considered as a unique classic. A work that dared to deal with the Holocaust in an exceptional way and shatter accepted cognitive conventions. Art Spiegelman, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for this book, is today considered the trailblazer of the genre of comics and graphic novels, a mentor for numerous writers throughout the world, who made graphic novels into a legitimate language for dealing with sensitive and charged subjects.
Despite the temptation to analyze Spiegelman’s inspiring artistic ability, one is immediately drawn into the kinky twist in the text, into an inter-generational and multi-layered language. The story sheds a disturbing light on history, exposes it in all its ugliness.
It is unusual for an Israeli publishing company to pick up the heavy gauntlet of publishing a graphic novel – a complex medium that relies heavily on illustrations and particularly charged text. This is a truly daring act, and a festive occasion for the lovers of the genre, further attesting to the fact that comics can also be a way of expression and a serious form of art.
Published in NRG, 5.52010