Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Cat and Maus Tale

David Hume, a Scottish philosopher, once said “the science of man is the only solid foundation for the other sciences.” Here, Hume isn’t referring to the subject that we study in school when he mentions the word- “science”. What he means by it is the empirical method based on “experience and observation”. Art Spiegelman’s Maus is a depiction of the same. The use of Hume’s philosophy is reflected in the book where Art Spiegelman- author and the cartoonist of the book interviews his dad Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew, who is a survivor of the Holocaust.

The father and the son share a troubled relationship. The son finds it hard to cope with a relationship that is grief-stricken, even though he shows a certain amount of interest in his father’s stories of survival during the Nazi occupation. The book has a satirical feel about it since the characters are all presented as various types of anthropomorphic animals, according to nationality or race; for instance, the Jews are represented as mice for their weakness of character and the Nazis are the cats epitomizing their fascist nature, along with Swedes as reindeer, the French as frogs, the British as fish, Americans as dogs, Poles as pigs and Roma (Gypsies) are represented as gypsy moths.

Art Spiegelman’s writing and art work are superb. He magnificently pulls you in as he narrates his father’s story and the trouble they went through during the Nazi era.

There are few comics that I know of that are highly regarded by the general populace. For example V for Vendetta and 300 (largely due to being the basis for popular films). Maus, Pulitzer Prize winner (1992) is one book that definitely needs to be added to the list.


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