First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
At last! Here is the definitive edition of the book acclaimed “as the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” (Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” (The New Yorker). It now appears as it was originally envisioned by the author: The Complete Maus.
It is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and this son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (New York Times).
Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.
And the week simply zoomed past me. Before I knew it, it is already Friday. It feels like Monday was just yesterday. Quarantine/Lock down life made me lose my sense of time. I guess this isn’t just me as the feeling seems to be universal.
My random musing beside, it is also time for First Impression Friday post. My current read, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, is a graphic novel, just my second in nearly 800 books read over a span of about thirteen years. For the record, my first graphic novel was Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis which I’ve read a little over two years ago. Persepolis is a book I’ve been wanting to read because of my fascination for history and Iran. In contrast, Maus is one of my random purchases, bought on impulse because of the enticing book cover and the intriguing title.
As always, I don’t have any iota on what the book was about when I bought it. However, upon reading the synopsis, my imagination was tickled and my curiosity was piqued. I was so interested in the book that I included it in my 2020 Top 20 Reading List. In fairness, Persepolis was also part of my 2018 Top 20 Reading List. I must admit that I do see some resemblances between two. The main narrators, for instance, are were left emotionally scarred because they were both caught up in the past, in history, to no fault of their own.
One of the concepts that really intrigued me about the book is the usage of an animal to represent characters in a narrative inspired by real events. Not only was it inspired by real events, the story is about the horrors experienced by the graphic novelist’s parents during the Second World War. Art’s parents, Vladek and Anja, were Polish Jews caught in the crossfire instigated by Nazi Germany’ Adolf Hitler.
Maus is one of many books in the Pantheons of literature that touches on the unconscionable acts of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. I have read so many accounts and stories that the pictures in my head are becoming even more vivid. I have read a lot that I can already make out the symbols of the Holocaust – the tattooed number, the peeping holes, the gas chambers. However, if there is something I have learned in reading is that each book holds a different story, each one represents a different voice. The pain and the anguish is universal but behind it are real people, distinct, unique and they shouldn’t be forgotten.
Nazi Germany and its atrocities, including the Second World War, are pivotal points in the history of humanity. It is no wonder that there are many books that touches on the horrors of ghetto life, of the gas chambers, and of the war in general. The Spiegelmans’ story is one that is pervaded by deaths, heartaches and also of hope and survival, set in one of the darkest moments in the history of mankind.
Vladek Spiegelman’s account of his experiences in the Polish ghetto, and eventually, Auschwitz, is punctuated by his stormy relationship with his son. As Artie himself admitted in the narrative, every son needs a father. But Vladek is no simple father. This is a facet of the story that I can’t wait to unfold. I am just under a hundred pages away from completing the book and I am excited to know how Artie matures as an individual and mends his relationship with his father. I see Maus as both an emotional and a personal journey.
As a son myself, stories about father-son dynamics always pique my interest. Don’t get me wrong. Artie captured the atmosphere of the Second World War very well. It was evocative, rich and filled with intricate details. In retelling his parent’s story, Artie is maybe exorcising demons of the past, maybe in getting back to the past he can make peace with his present. He was about to become a father himself. That is just how I envision the story is going to evolve.
How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!