MAUS, the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel and illustrated biography by Art Spiegelman, is widely considered to have vaulted the graphic novel to new heights in terms of literary quality, artistic merit, and personal and historical complexity. Using anthropomorphic animal characters (Jews are depicted as mice, Germans as cats, Americans as dogs, etc.) and a combination of flashbacks, memories, and stories, Spiegelman recounts the experiences of his father Vladek Spiegelman before, during, and after World War II, including his harrowing years in concentration camps. The first volume, MY FATHER BLEEDS HISTORY, establishes Spiegelman's father in the present as an irritable old man with a bad heart living in Queens, New York, and then deftly moves back in time to shows his youthful romances and eventual marriage to the beautiful Anja. Their happiness, however, is short-lived: they are forced to relocate into the Jewish ghetto while worse dangers loom as the Nazis' Final Solution grinds into action. The use of cartoons to describe such appalling events seems problematic, but MAUS brilliantly captures not only the awful weight of history, but also humorous and humane moments from a dark time in human civilization.
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