In this graphic novel Art Spiegelman tells the story of interviewing his father Vladek about the father’s experiences in Poland before and during WWII; he also depicts his father’s recollections in graphic novel format. The title of the book echoes Spiegelman’s portrayal of the Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as pigs. Maus I details the courtship of Spiegelman’s parents and the deadly “cat and mouse” games they were forced to play as they attempted to evade the Nazis and escape the Holocaust.
I have long intended to read this classic/foundational graphic novel, but I never made the time until now. It didn’t take long to read, but it will long remain in my memory. As an English teacher, I used Eli Wiesel’s Night in my freshman English classes, so I have read and reread that poetic first-person testimony, and, in my limited experience, it’s the definitive literary account of the Holocaust. Reading Maus I gave me a different and more distant perspective on similar events. Spiegelman’s use of animal species for graphic ethnic coding strikes me as a clever reinforcement of the ethnic nature of his father’s persecution. Knowing his parents survived WWII makes me eager to read the second volume to learn the details of their escape.