Art Spiegelman's series of graphic novels which details in beautiful but simultaneously horrible pictures his father's journey through Nazi Germany and its concentration camps. The series is divided into two books:

1) Hiding from the Nazis and attempting to escape them.
2) Being captured and sent to a Auschwitz and life there, as well as living through Auschwitz and what happened to those that didn't.

To avoid making the novels too graphic to read, Spiegelman uses creatures to represent the various different ethnicities involved in the story. The Jewish people are Mice, Germans are Cats. There are also dogs, pigs, and other "barnyard" creatures. The books are entirely in black and white which gives them a very dark tone, and lends them an oppressive feel. Readers will certainly find the books good, but it is very hard to actually enjoy something grounded in reality and dealing with such a heavy subject.

Maus I and Maus II are two very good books to read... and because they are both "comics" most anyone can probably understand them. I studied these books in an English class and I was kind of skeptical about how much a "good" read they would be, but Spiegelman is a very good artist (both in how he writes and his drawings). The animals Spiegelman chose to represent certain races are of significance. For instance, the French are represented by frogs (this could be a reference to frog legs or could be a commentary on the French*).

We also studied the psychology in the books. It's very interesting to look at how people are affected by war, and see how that plays out in Maus I & II. They are very good... read them (they're not long).

*If you ARE French, I mean no offense. However, a frog is not a very noble creature and there are people who dislike France and/or French people.

An interesting facet of the comic book masterpiece that is Maus is the "meta-narrative" (ok, I made that term up). Throughout the story of Vladek Spiegelman's ordeal in Nazi Europe are revealing glimpses of Art's current relationship with his father, as he tries to record his recollections. Everything from his annoyance at being treated like a child to his distress at his father's resemblance to a "stereotypical penny-pinching old Jew" is included. It really gives the whole book a much more personal aspect, and connects the "old" story of the Holocaust to the "new" story of the survivors and their families in the present. I particularly liked his inclusion of his early work "Prisoner of the Hell Planet" (about his mother's suicide) and how it is found by Mala, Vladek's companion. "I was so shocked," she says, "It was so... so personal! But very accurate... objective."

Maus: A Survivor's Tale is a two-part graphic novel by the artist Art Spiegelman. It centres around his father, Vladek, a Jewish Auschwitz survivor; Spiegelman taped interviews with him, and then translated them into a comic strip where the Jews are mice and the Nazis are cats.

From an outsider's perspective, this would seem to trivialise the atrocities he's relaying - but Maus turns out to be a very respectful, powerful work that not only takes in the concentration camp itself, but its effect on future generations in the survivors' families. The second volume also deals with the idea of the artist riding on the holocaust for success - something Steven Spielberg caught a lot of flak for with Schindler's List - and ultimately sees him coming to terms with his heritage.

There's also a CD-ROM edition by Voyager, complete with the audio interviews with Vladek, close-up versions of each panel and assorted sources. However, as with most works of literature, the effect is greatest and most immediate when reading it from the printed page.

(The combined edition's ISBN number is 0679748407. It's published by Pantheon Books.)

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