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September 15, 1989 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I PROFILE

A page from chapter eight,
"Mauschwitz (Time Flies)," from
Maus (left) and author Art
Spiegelman.

Of Maus
And Men

Art Spiegelman begins the
second book of his father's life
in Nazi Germany.

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM.

Features Editor

A

cigarette be-
tween his lips,
a small mouse in
a black vest sits
listening to his
father's voice on a tape
recorder.
"Each morning and even-
ing the Nazis made an appel.
They counted the live ones
and dead ones to see it wasn't
any missing," the father,
Vladek, says. "We stood
sometimes the whole night
while they counted again and
again.
"On our appels it was one

old guy there, always he was
complaining: 'I don't belong
here with all these Yids and
Polacks! I'm a German like
you! I have medals from the
Kaiser. My son is a German
soldier!'
"Only they hit him and
they laughed. On one appel
he didn't stand so straight
and a guard dragged him
away. I heard he pushed him
down and jumped hard on his
neck . . . Or they sent him to
the gas, I don't remember, but
they finished him and he
never complained any more!"
This is Vladek Spiegelman
the mouse. He and millions of
his fellow Jewish mice battle
Nazi cats. They stand beside
piles of bodies of mice, their
mouths still open in final
screams, murdered by the
cats. This way, ladies and
gentlemen, to the gates of
Mauschwitz.
Vladek Spiegelman the
man died in 1982. His son,
Art, listens to tapes his father
left behind; they tell of his life
in Auschwitz.
After he listens, Art
Spiegelman draws. His Camel
cigarette ever present,
Spiegelman makes comics of
his father's life during the
Holocaust. In his drawings,
the mice are the Jews; the
Nazis are cats; the Americans
are dogs, and the Poles are
pigs.
Spiegelman's first book
about his father, Maus: A
Survivor's Tale, was publish-
ed in 1980 in Raw, a collec-
tion of adult comics which
Spiegelman edits. Today,
Spiegelman continues the
story in Maus II, which also
is appearing in Raw.
For Spiegelman, who lives
in New York, Maus is written
"always with agonizing

slowness." In addition to
Maus, Spiegelman is busy
editing Raw and serving as a
consultant to ibpps Gum,
where he created those giants
of grotesque, the Garbage Pail
Kids.
The first Maus, although
unrecognizable from its cur-
rent form, was born in 1971.
Spiegelman created the
three-page comic strip while
estranged from his father.
Although tension between
father and son is often por-
trayed in Maus, Spiegelman's
relationship with his mother,
Anja, is rarely discussed. She
died when he was a boy.
The little he knows of his
mother, who also survived
Auschwitz, is that she was
about 5'2", slightly
overweight and more in-
terested in people than
thoughts and ideas,
Spiegelman says. She was
quiet, loyal and encouraged
him to become a writer.
Spiegelman would have
known more of her but his
father, trying to "get rid of
bad memories," burned her
diaries, he says. Learning of
his father's deed, Art the
mouse cries "Murderer!" in
the first Maus.
Today, Spiegelman retains
just a few remnants of his
parents' past: some
photographs, documents from
Auschwitz, a few notes his
mother scribbled and his
parents' arrest papers in Nazi
Germany.
After he finished the second
page of the first Maus,
Spiegelman longed to see his
father again. While he re-
mained angry, he also found
himself sympathetic — a
dialectic that continues to
permeate his stories about his
father, he says.
Eventually, Spiegelman
sought his father out. While
the relationship was not
warm, "at least we could
spend more than an hour in
a room without creating a
nuclear explosion!'
The difference was Maus.
The work provided a format
for a relationship: Vladek
Spiegelman spoke at length
of his life in Auschwitz; his
son listened.
Spiegelman- says he was
surprised by the success of the
complete Maus, which was
published in 1986 in book
form. The Washington Post
called it "a quiet triumph!'
The New York Times labeled
it "a remarkable feat of
documentary detail and
novelistic vividness." And
Newsweek said of Maus: "(It
is) uniquely moving . . . Com-
pels us to bear witness in a
different way!'
His reviews are consistant-
ly raves, but Spiegelman says

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

41

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