This is where I start walking through a field of eggs, ever, ever so careful where I put my feet. Because these two books are about The Holocaust, and based on the actual experiences of the author’s father, and how could I possibly be anything less than stunned by their achievement?
I have no quibble with Art Spiegelman’s use of mice, pigs and cats to portray Jews, Poles and Nazis. I think using a comic strip to tell his story is as valid a form of communication as a book or a film or a poem. But for all the books’ originality, I couldn’t help feeling that there was something missing. I read them both and put them aside and thought, ‘Okay, that was interesting.’
Perhaps I’ve read and seen too many accounts of similar events for these to make a lasting impression. Perhaps they would have struck harder had I been younger. Perhaps the focus on the main character’s continued survival seemed to circumvent what was happening to those who didn’t survive. Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man and The Truce covered somewhat similar ground and almost thirty years later I still think about the events they described. I’m not sure I can say the same about Maus.
But as I said, I’m walking on eggs here, so perhaps I’d just better stop.