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Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (1986)

by Art Spiegelman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Maus: A Survivor's Tale (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,771210667 (4.44)313
The author-illustrator traces his father's imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp through a series of disarming and unusual cartoons arranged to tell the story as a novel.

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» See also 313 mentions

English (202)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (209)
Showing 1-5 of 202 (next | show all)
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
This had been sitting on my daughter's shelf for a while. I had peeked at it a time or two to see if it interested me. Generally I haven't been a fan of comics, and the artwork for this one really just didn't do it for me. Why would I bother with a graphic work so poorly drawn? I decided to revisit it after reading Understanding Comics this week.

It's a good book. It could have been a straight-up Holocaust narrative, but the interludes with the artist and his dad and mother-in-law pull you out of the older narrative and connect it to the time of the telling, which makes it feel more immediate rather than like like something that happened in the olden times. Drawing the characters as animals makes really great sense when you read the epigraph, a quote from Hitler about Jews being a race but not humans. Dehumanizing the Nazis too (and for that matter all the good and less good peripheral characters in the story) is kind of clever.

As for the drawing style, what I found as I read was that I actually wound up not looking at the pictures very much. They were there as sort of a background, and they provided a rough point of reference I could use to sort of see the action, but they didn't stand out or draw much attention on their own. By contrast, often, when I'm reading a comic, I find myself sort of inspecting the drawings. In fact, this is what annoys me about comics. I have mostly preferred reading words, and comics force me to do lots of little attention switches. In Maus, both the words and the drawings are very unflashy and kind of spare and rough-hewn. The drawings replace clunky narrative and let the words bear their stark emotional freight, without distracting from the words. It's the story that matters here and not the artfulness of either the drawings or the words, and the form lets the horrifying story stand in the foreground, which is pretty important when it's this kind of story. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
A powerful, emotional tale that connects a father and son to the horrors of the Holocaust and the tensions present in their relationship. I am interested to see how Spiegelman will tie it together in the end. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
This is a graphic novel telling/showing one man's (the author/illustrator's father) experiences and survival of the holocaust. In the graphic novel, Poles are represented as pigs, Jews are mice, and Nazi Germans are cats (all Germans are Nazi Germans in this tale). I ... am not sure if the chosen animals are meant to represent anything in particular. It seemed pretty obvious to me that he chose cats as a natural foil to the mice, but I'm not sure what the pigs were supposed to represent. The tale includes Polish individuals that appear to be good, appear to be bad, and appear to be very self-interested. I hadn't really taken any particular "message" about the chosen animal, but I was curious.

So Vladeck Spiegelman (Art's father) was a man with a relatively new wife and a new baby when he was first taken as a prisoner of war at the beginning of World War II. He is eventually released and makes it back to his family, where he discovers that, while they still have most of their possessions, house, and money, they are beginning to live as prisoners in their own cities. As time progresses, the Germans demand more and more from the Jewish population, including their elderly, their children, their furniture, their homes, their lives. Spiegelman shows the perspective of someone who did not know what was happening---in retrospect, we know what Auschwitz is, but when it first came on the horizon, they did not know, and this was well portrayed in Maus I.

Because it's a graphic novel, Spiegelman is able to tell a horrific story in a way that is palatable for most. It is heart-breaking and tragic, but it is a little removed in its form of telling (which I do believe is the point). Also, Spiegelman incorporates other present-day story into the graphic novel, finding a way to humanize his father and what happened to him as well as provide insight into the impact such experiences can have on someone and, yet, how they continue to find meaning in their everyday lives and relationships.

I can't say that I "enjoyed" this, because it is, as I say, heart-breaking. But it was well done and informative. I think Spiegelman adds a lot to the area by presenting his father's story in this manner.

FOUR of five stars. ( )
  avanders | Nov 23, 2020 |
My review of this book can be found on my Youtube Vlog at:


Enjoy! ( )
  booklover3258 | Nov 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 202 (next | show all)
Making a Holocaust comic book with Jews as mice and Germans as cats would probably strike most people as flippant, if not appalling. ''Maus: A Survivor's Tale'' is the opposite of flippant and appalling. To express yourself as an artist, you must find a form that leaves you in control but doesn't leave you by yourself. That's how ''Maus'' looks to me - a way Mr. Spiegelman found of making art.

» Add other authors (72 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Spiegelman, Artprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amorim, FernandoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carano, RanieriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mouly, FrancoiseEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Awards and honors
"The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human." Adolf Hitler
Purdue Jewish Studies Program
First words
It was summer, I remember I was ten or eleven...
Last words
Disambiguation notice
This is the single volume edition of "Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History". It does NOT contain the second volume of the story, Maus II.

DO NOT COMBINE with the omnibus edition containing both Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began!!!
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The author-illustrator traces his father's imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp through a series of disarming and unusual cartoons arranged to tell the story as a novel.

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AR 3.2, 3 Pts
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