Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began
Author: Art Spiegleman
Rated T for unrecognizable trauma and a terrifying tale from the worst time in history.
In the second volume of Spiegelman’s graphic novel duet, his father struggles with his health issues he encounters on top of Mala leaving him. Art continues to learn about his father’s time during the Holocaust and after. Here, Vladek details his time in Auschwitz until it was raided and the war ended to his time trying to find his wife. As Art listens, he comes to some truths of his own about his father.
Maus is 1 of 4 graphic novel series that I’m doing for my New Year’s Resolution.
Not holding back, this volume is stunning, rich and unique throughout its horrifying yet heart-wrecking pages. I’ve never read an experience such as this. Vladek wasn’t shy in the slightest about sharing every gritty detail and some of them really shattered me, for example, his time working in the gas chambers and incinerators, burning bodies.
The story moved between Vladek’s nightmarish memories and his present situation with his wife having left him and his soon wanting to have independence from him. All the while, his trauma still clings to him in an unnoticeable way to him. He still hoards things and is determined not to trust anyone else to help him with anything. Such powerful and honest storytelling that hides nothing.
The cartoons seriously lightened up the tale for sure, but not. Envisioning people as different animals was cute in how it explained some situations. It certainly made it more accessible. But, as you go on and look back on the relationships cats and mice share—cats being Hitler’s SS and others, and mice being Jews. A unique relationship to their human counterparts. Still, for those looking for a deeper understanding, this take on the Holocaust is amazing.
One the most intriguing parts was when Vladek met a priest and the priest seemed to find all kinds of good luck for Vladek through the number he was given on his arm. Such a number is horrifying because it was the only thing SS would pay attention to. Names meant nothing and were nothing. It was surprising the conclusions he came to almost as if he were reading a palm. It blew my mind. This interaction was such an important part of what kept Vladek going. A small light in such a dark place.
The in-depth exploration and visual of Auschwitz was intense. I wish I had a better way to put that, but it was overwhelming. Not in some great way or like if I’d be there myself in person, but it’s a feeling of dread to look at and really take in the horror of the people who died and survived. Art gave incredible artwork to really take me into the camp where his father and brought me so close to understanding how terrifying it was. A question I couldn’t help think was, “Who had it worse? Those who died or those stuck with such memories?”. I hate to think of such a thing. Those who survived are so strong, but I can’t imagine what they carry with them everyday.
The strained relationship between Art and Vladek is soul-bearing. From the very beginning it’s understood that these two clash. I underestimated just how much. Art was incredibly brave with all that he shared, from being jealous of the brother killed during the Holocaust to the stress he felt constantly as his father for constantly bothering him with complaints. Vulnerable through and through this was. Brutal and uncomfortable, it was also honest. A tale like this, you can’t escape any of that.
Incredible and a must read. Imperative. Eye-opening and revolutionary. No story has ever been told like this. Unforgettable and moving and captivating. I’m so glad I got to read this.
“When I was a kid I used to think about which of my parents I’d let the Nazis take to the ovens if I could only save one of them…” (Art, p. 14)
“…No. Everything Vladek went through. It’s a miracle he survived. – Art
Uh-huh.But in some ways he didn’t survive. – Francios” (p. 90)
More to come soon…
Song Today? Dead in the Water by Ellie Goulding.
Thoughts? Let’s chat in the comments below!