Art Spiegelman won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize under the category of Special Awards and Citations – Letters for his amazing graphic books Maus I and Maus II. The books comprise a powerful memoir which recounts the lives and survival of the author’s parents Vladek and Anja Spiegelman during WWII in Poland where they were eventually captured and transported to Auswchitz. But it is also a story about Art Spiegelman’s difficult relationship with his father, and the impact of survival on the survivor’s family.
Told in a cartoon format where the Jews are portrayed as mice and the Nazi soldiers as cats, the story gains much of its power from the form in which it is written.
Spiegelman alternates between Poland during the war (where Vladek recounts the terrible and terrifying days of the Nazi occupation) and Rego Park, New York in the 1980s (where Art and his aging father struggle to establish meaningful lives together).
The result is a story which compels the reader to keep turning the pages while terror comes to life through vivid illustrations. It is a story of survival and finally of love – love between a man and a woman which the German camps could not destroy, and love between a father and son. Maus I: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began are powerful documentaries of a family who survived the Holocaust and its impact on their future and the child who was born after the war.
This was my first foray into Graphic Art as story and I was moved and touched by it. If you decide to read Spiegelman’s work, you must read both books, back to back without a rest in between.