July Books 7) The Complete Maus

7) The Complete Maus, by Art Spiegelman.

I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t read this before. It really is fantastic. Art Spiegelman persuades his elderly, cranky father to recount the experience of the Holocaust, in a series of graphic novels originally published between 1980 and 1991. The Jews are mice; the Germans are cats; the Poles are pigs; one French character is a frog. Which at first sounds as if he’s going for the worst stereotyping but in fact the moral comes out more as being to stress the shared humanity of all the participants. (At a couple of points Spiegelman interrupts the plot to reflect on the metaphor, but it still works.)

It’s a grim story, of course, enlivened by shafts of unexpected wit and individual moments of heroism. For me one of the grimmest aspects was to reflect that the last issue of Maus was published the year before Milosevic started down precisely the same road in Croatia and Bosnia. Strongly recommended.

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