Monday, January 7, 2008

Revisiting Maus

I picked up Maus off my bookshelf this weekend. It's just as wonderful and heartbreaking as I remember; parts of it still make me cry. A Google search revealed this interesting lecture from a Canadian professor. He argues that the story is less about the Holocaust than it is about the desire to use history -- family history -- to define and understand oneself.

In fact, the issue of Artie as an artist striving to give symbolic shape and narrative form to his family's experiences in order to cope with his own pain is such a persistent feature of the books that the matter of central concern at times moves beyond Vladek and Artie and becomes the text itself: can the artistic result—Artie's attempt to "catch" his family's past—provide whatever it is that Artie needs or wants, that is, satisfy him as an artist and a human being?

This is true. Now that I'm at a point in my life where family is more important to me than ever before, Maus resonates on a much more personal level.

I don't have any Holocaust survivors in my immediate family. I don't know if my relatives from Poland died in the Holocaust or not. But I want to find out more about their history. And I want to go to Poland.

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