Using a medium often associated with lightheartedness to portray the horrors of the Holocaust.
From cartoonist to chronicler of the Holocaust, Art Spiegelman’s career has followed an unlikely journey deeper into himself, and into history. Spiegelman, in his own way, is an innovator, having played a part in the creation of a new literary subgenre with his graphic novel Maus (1986).
Spiegelman was born in 1948 in
Maus borrowed from the tradition of the comics and graphic novels Spiegelman had been raised with, like George Herriman’s visually lush, occasionally surrealist tale of a cat, a mouse, and a dog in Krazy Kat. As far as the narrative, Spiegelman had a complicated relationship with his father, Vladek, and this inspired the younger Spiegelman to explore the story of Vladek’s Holocaust experience.
As the title suggests, in Maus, Spiegelman drew Jews as mice. Nazis as cats, and Poles as pigs. Spiegelman teetered deliberately on the edge of stereotype, toying with the image of Jews as helpless victims, the playthings of their bigger, fiercer antagonists. But Maus invests the stereotypes with deep feeling, and the inherent cruelty of Jewish victimhood is placed under the microscope. “If Maus is about anything,” Spiegelman told interviewer Lawrence Weschler, “it's a critique of the limitations—the sometimes fatal limitations—of the caricaturizing impulse.”