Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began, by Art Spiegelman (1991, Pantheon)

Recommended for ages 13+

Picking up where Maus I leaves off, Maus II continues the story of Art Spiegelman’s tumultuous relationship with his father, a Holocaust survivor, and tells the story of his parents’ arrival at Auschwitz through to their liberation.
After arriving at Auschwitz, Vladek and Anja are separated. Most of the story, related through Vladek’s eyes, covers Vladek’s day-to-day survival and the horrors he witnessed – the ovens, tthe brutality, and the daily fights to live and eat. He talks about the friendships he made and the often sobering reality that these friends went away one day, never to be seen again. He manages to find someone in the women’s camp to keep an eye on Anja and protect her, but when Anja is moved to Birkenau, he loses track of her.
Maus II is also Art’s attempt to work through his mother’s suicide and father’s death in 1986. He reveals his being overwhelmed with Maus’ success and his depression at not being able to match up to his father; he also explores Vladek’s survivor’s guilt over Auschwitz.
Maus II is every bit as compelling as its predecessor. Maus introduced readers to Vladek and illustrated the beginnings of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and Maus II tells the story of survival at Auschwitz. We see the prisoners’ desperation, the fights over crusts of bread, and the Nazis’ cruelty. The misery is starkly drawn in black and white. Reading this second half of Maus, the reader can better understand the events that shaped Vladek, including his insistence on having things done his way and his obsession with his money being taken from him. We also see how Art’s parents’ experiences have shaped Art’s life. Surrounded by Holocaust survivors, from his parents to his own therapist, Art cannot separate from his father’s image; an image he does not feel he matches up to.

Maus II received the Max and Moritz Special Prize (1990); Eisner and Harvey Awards (1992), and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1992).
Art Spiegelman and his wife, artist Francoise Mouly, have worked together on Raw and The New Yorker. His success with Maus brought critical acclaim to comic books and helped bring the medium serious, scholarly attention.

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