The graphic novel has long been a favourite form of mine for its ability to transcend the seperate capabilities of print and images by combining them. And contrary to popular belief, graphic novels often deftly handle material as serious as fasicm, the Holocaust and the Cold War.
It has been twenty-five years since the ground-breaking Maus by Art Spiegelman was published. In two volumes he tells of his father’s survival of the Holocaust and the impact it had on the lives of his family. In this article in the Guardian, he discusses how difficult it was to get Maus published and the backlash to it.
The book, which was finally published by Pantheon in the US, was a New York Times bestseller, has been translated into 18 languages and has won numerous prizes…”I think that the shock of being celebrated, rewarded for depicting so much death, gave me the bends…”The shock of Maus, and the source of its great and enduring power, lies in Spiegelman’s absolute refusal to sentimentalise or sanctify the Survivor, in thiscase, his father. During the war, Vladek lost his six-year-old son, Richieu, poisoned by the aunt to whom his parents had sent him for safe-keeping, in order that he might avoid the gas chambers; he lost most of his extended family, and he endured months of the most appalling fear and hardship in Auschwitz-Birkenau and, later, Dachau. But unimaginable suffering, Spiegelman wants us to understand, doesn’t make a person better; it just makes them suffer.
As part of the celebration of Maus, a 25th anniversary edition has been released with a DVD embedded in the front cover. It contains extra materials related to the comic, including the rejection letters from all the big publishing houses that didn’t think a graphic novel worth their time. It is a fantastic insight into the making of a graphic novel, and its potential as an art form. It will be available from early November at Exclusives.co.za