Maus in the Closet

November 25, 2011 | By

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Art Spiegelman is haunted by his history. Not only his father’s history as a Holocaust survivor–which was depicted in the graphic novel Maus (1986), regarded as one of the great works of Holocaust literature–but also his own history.

The new MetaMaus is Spiegelman’s 300-page, full-color, illustrated history of Maus. Part biography, part critical document, Spiegelman recounts his story of becoming a professional cartoonist–moving to San Francisco in the 1960s and teaming up with the renowned underground cartoonist R. Crumb. In counterculture magazines, Spiegelman printed short comics about his mother’s suicide, and his inability to connect to his father’s immigrant culture…all of which set the stage for writing Maus, his epic story of “surviving the survivors.”

A ton of information is contained here. And each aspect of Spiegelman’s backstory is fascinating. Even the more trivial parts–an extensive history of the portrayal of Jews as mice, dating back to the works of Kafka, and a meditation on the Internet phenomenon of cats that look like Hitler–are completely riveting. Compiled here, it’s more than a massive history of Maus; it’s a history of our relationship, as Americans and as artists, with the Holocaust.

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