I read the first volume of Maus by Art Spiegelman several years ago. It is a classic in the graphic novel medium, and I felt I didn’t need to add much to the plethora of reviews and praises out there in Internet land with my amateur musings. The book is part of college English and history curricula now. But honestly, now that I have read the second volume, I think Maus II is the better book. I think the two volumes are now technically considered to be one book, but volume two was published in 1991, five years after volume one. The collection won the Pulitzer Prize Special Award in 1992.
A lot has been said about the book’s value as a Holocaust narrative, and how it illuminates the cost war has on families generations later. The second volume picks up the story of Spiegelman’s parents as they enter Auschwitz and are separated. Spiegelman’s father recounts his time in the prison camp and his eventual release. I think what really makes Maus interesting is how Spielgelman weaves together his father’s Auschwitz narrative, his own difficult relationship with his father, and Spiegelman’s struggle to make sense of it all by writing the book. I have seen it mentioned many places, and it is true: the last page of volume two is heartbreaking.
There are still many who don’t give the same weight to good graphic novels as they do to traditional literature. I have to stress that Maus is not just a graphic novel or comic book. This is literature, deep and wide and heavy. If you have never read a graphic novel, do yourself a favor. Pick up both volumes of Maus and read them. I guarantee you will have a new appreciation for the medium. You can find Maus II here.