Monday, January 12, 2015

I'm tired from talking...and it's enough stories for now

We're having an open house right now, and since I don't have a car in order to get anywhere not the house (and it's cold and there's snow everywhere so walking 2+ miles doesn't sound like super fun) I figured I'll hide upstairs and work on a review! Now let's see, next up to review is...Maus II. Great. Something light-hearted.

I'm having, if possible, even more trouble coming up with what to say about Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began than I had with Maus I, and not only because it's been a few months since I read it.

Maus I takes place in occupied Poland, with Vladek and his family having to deal with all of the pain and terror that comes with being Jewish in a place that really does not like Jews.  Maus II takes place after Vladek and his wife Anja have been taken Auschwitz. So things go from bad to oh-my-god-this-is-the-worst-please-let-me-go-back-to-how-it-was-before. The story is depressing, which you should expect because Holocaust. You know things are going to be OK for Vladek and Anja (for awhile) because the story is Vladek telling his son Art about his time at the camp, so obviously he makes it out. Just because there's a silver lining, doesn't make things any less heartbreaking. Just because Vladek and Anja make it out of the camp, doesn't mean lots of other mice do.
Vladek's telling is matter of fact, which in a way serves the story well because you don't get quite so fatigued reading about the terrible things that happen. Vladek talks about receiving a beating from a guard after he spoke a couple words to Anja. When telling his son all he says is "So he beat me, what can I tell you? Only, thank God, Anja didn't get also such a beating. She wouldn't live." If this wasn't a true story I could see such a telling as coming off as cold and distant. Coming from someone relieving the event, the coping mechanism is more than understandable.
Vladek displays a lot of strength and ingenuity during these dire times. He's very ill for awhile (cos you know, death camps aren't great for your health) and of course he's seeing terrible things happen constantly, but still he manages to stay relatively safe and of course he makes it out.

There's another thing that makes the story more complex, more interesting: Vladek isn't some saint. Most of the story takes place during his time at the camp or his time marching, but a good chunk of the story is Art's interviews with his father in the present day and his farther seems like a lot to deal with. He's not bad, he's not evil. He's an old man who was constantly insulting Art's step-mother until she gave up and left him and now he's alone and guilts Art and Art's wife into spending time with him. You feel for Vladek while at the same time you can feel Art's frustration. He loves his father, that isn't in doubt, but family is never that simple.
You should read this. It's hard to really give reasons here. I want to say the typical things like "It's amazing and beautiful" but then a lot of caveats come in. Like "well I mean, it's amazing but also about the Holocaust and I mean, that's not amazing. Also it's beautiful but not like, piles of dead mice/people beautiful and oh no, I think I've sort of committed a hate crime. I'm sorry." So I'll just repeat, you should read this.

Gif rating:

Title quote from page 136

Spiegelman, Art. Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began. Pantheon Books, 1986.