July 17, 2004

Comic - Maus a Survivors Tale: My Father Bleeds History/ Art Spiegelman

I chanced upon Maus while serendipitously looking over the graphic novel section at the Teens Library at Jurong Regional Library. The cover sports a prominent Nazi Party swastika with a stylised cathead, poised above two mice cowering under the glare of a spotlight.

It's a Holocaust survivor's tale as told by the artist’s father to him. The Nazis were the cats, while the persecuted Jews were the mice (I suppose "Maus" was German for 'mouse'). The story reminded me of this installation piece at the Singapore Art Museum years ago. It was a lot of canvas paintings of lambs' heads, and all spread out upright on the floor, much like a flock of sheep. The museum guide explained that artist was expressing his frustration at how the Jews could have let themselves be led like lambs to the slaughterhouse by the Nazis.

Reading 'Maus', with its analogy of the Cat and Mouse game, again makes me question how one human being could let themselves be led to the gallows by another. In the story, apparently the Jews knew that people were being gassed in Auschwitz, but they still let themselves be led there, perhaps in a state of denial.
The scary thing is that it's quite possible (I'm sure there are books and articles on social dynamics that would explain how it's possible). It's even scarier when you read that there are people who deny that the Holocaust ever occurred.

The graphics are in black & white, which gives it a more surreal feel. The story is told like a docu-drama. There is a second part to the story, which I haven't gotten my hands on it yet. Check it out at NLB online catalogue.

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