A Book Recommendation For April I Oxford Open Learning

A Book Recommendation For April

With my recommendation of George Orwell’s 1984 last month, it seems only fair to continue with the theme of thought-provoking literature to get your mind going. But instead of looking toward the future, this time it’s a book that looks upon the past. This month, the recommendation is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman (pictured). There’s no Superman or Captain America in sight here though, this is a story without heroes and a tale that would arguably make a great addition to the school curriculum.

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

The first and only graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, Maus is a brutally moving work of art about a Holocaust survivor and the son who survives him. Part memoir and part comic book, this isn’t like any cartoon you’ve seen before. Maus takes the medium to tackle a very dark topic: the holocaust.

This is the “Complete” edition of “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale”, collecting both parts: “My Father Bleeds History” and “And Here My Troubles Began”.

The back cover of the book reads: “The complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. It is a contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.”

The story of the Jewish Vladek, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story, Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. It uses familiarity against the reader and the assumption that good always wins over evil, casting the generally harmless household animals of cats as Nazis and mice as Jews.

Pullitzer Crudentials

This is a story that’s on many ‘must-read’ lists, is the only Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel and has a whole host of outlets and authors singing its praises for just how well-written, thought-provoking and generally incredible it is. Here are just a few;

‘One of the cliches about the holocaust is that you can’t imagine it… Spiegelman disproves that theory’ –The Independent

‘The first masterpiece in comic book history’ –The New Yorker

‘Like all great stories, it tells us more about ourselves than we could ever suspect’ –Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials series

Maus is honest, real and heartbreakingly written. It’s simple in its storytelling and its ink pen drawings are just as minimal, which is exactly what it needs to be when the subject matter is where the focus should be. It’s a story about a family set against a hugely terrible moment in human history, and one that is absolutely worth your time. Indeed, even a second read is warranted in order to fully appreciate it. The Complete Maus is probably the most engaging history lesson you’ll ever get.


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Image:Nadja Spiegelman; cc licence 4.0 

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