Search This Blog

Monday, November 25, 2019

Maus: A Survivor's Tale. And Here My Troubles Began, Chapter 5 - a Review

Maus: A Survivor's Tale. And Here My Troubles Began (1991)
"The Second Honeymoon" - Volume 2, Chapter 5
Art Spiegelman

After a year of once-a-month reviews, we have come to the conclusion. In storytelling time, we've bridged 1978-1991; the events therein covered nearly 60 years. It has been a tale of scope and of scale, and in my mind this is one of the most important comic books ever produced. One can argue about other books' lasting impacts, or financial appreciation. But Maus was somewhat of a game changer across the market, as it brought "comix" to a mainstream audience and caused the general public to take notice of the genre and its storytelling possibilities. I long ago lost track of how many times I've read this, but I don't care - I know I'll keep coming back.

In this final chapter we wrap the events of the war years, and see the almost-end of Art's and Vladek's relationship. It's a fitting curtain drop, one that is poignantly touching.

100-Word Review:
As Art set about continuing his work on the second volume of Maus, he was interrupted by a frantic call from Mala, his stepmother. She’d gone back with Vladek, and they were in Florida. Vladek was quite ill, and Art needed to head south to help them return to New York. Once stabilized, Vladek told Art about the days immediately following the war - but he was separated from Anja, his wife. After time in Displaced Persons camps and another bout with typhus, he eventually made his way back to Sosnowiec, where he was reunited with his beloved. He was later able to secure employment and rebuild his finances, and the Spiegelmans made their way to the United States.
Most of this chapter takes place in the present. It is a satisfying finish to the telling of Art's and Vladek's stormy relationship.

The Good: Art's a good son, in spite of how crazy his dad had driven him through the years. Art felt a real sense of responsibility to Vladek and to Mala. It's pretty clear that the role of caretaker was not comfortable for Art, but he did it and did it well. I thought, especially given the way the first volume had ended, that the story had a bittersweet ending. "Happy" was probably out of the question, but I didn't walk away in a fit of depression.

It was important that Vladek related the trials he faced in reuniting with Anja. It should not be lost on anyone that upon liberation, survivors had no assets. And when we see stories of the murders that took place in Poland when Jews tried to return to their former homes and property, the barriers to normalcy seem all the steeper. News in those days of course traveled slowly, and knowing the destruction of German infrastructure it's a wonder word made it from place to place at all.

Across the entire narrative, I was impressed by Vladek's resourcefulness. The vignette about selling hosiery (out of place in the chronology of Vladek's biography but told as such because it was topical to the narrative of that page) was amazing. I'd not call Vladek a scammer, but I would say he was more adept than most at sniffing out a deal.

The reunion of Vladek and Anja was appropriately low-key. Art let the event speak for itself.

The Bad: Over the past couple of chapters, I think we really got a taste for the absence of Anja's perspective in the events at the end of the war. Vladek's destruction of her diaries effectively omitted a large wedge in the narrative pie. When she is present in the story again, there's a weight to those pages in which she was absent. I don't know that it overall diminishes the impact of Maus - after all, that her diaries were destroyed is an important ongoing element in the relationship between Art and his father. But it certainly would have added to the trajectory of chapter 4.

I am never able to understand Vladek's motivation for having his picture taken in a camp uniform. I'm glad Art used it in the book, but it's never clear to me why anyone would want to be near that. When I see those uniforms on display at the United States Holocaust Museum, I always have a sense of revulsion. To stand mere feet away, and to know what they may have been used for and most certainly what they symbolized, sweeps me with emotion.

The Ugly: The above-mentioned pogroms and killings in Poland and elsewhere at the conclusion of the war. As Vladek relates, for this they survived?

For those of you new to this series, I'd invite you to use the Repository of Reviews for links to my thoughts on each of the 11 chapters of Maus. And to anyone who has been along for the entire 11-month ride, I thank you. I've remarked along the way that this has been a real labor of love for me, and these reviews are a goal I've long held. It has been gratifying to see the "project" come to a conclusion; I hope you've appreciated the story as much as I have.


  1. No, Doug - thank you.
    I haven't left a comment for every installment, but I have been very attentively reading them all. You've done a great rundown of the entire sweep of the story, and I appreciated reading your own thoughts about the overall story and its individual parts (which often mirrored my own impressions).
    So what can I say now that it's all wrapped up except: well done, sir.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Edo - that means a lot.

      Be well, friend!


  2. A fine finish to your extended review, Doug. Many thanks for all the time and effort, not to mention thought, that went into this. Maus is well worth the efforts involved in such a lengthy examination. You're right, it is one of the most important comics ever. I hope your series has led a few people to pick up the book on their own. It did prompt me into another reading (like you, no idea how many times now).

    Perhaps Maus should be required reading in high school literature classes. I recall being assigned Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5" in high school and how much it impacted me. Maus would do the same, surely, for anyone who reads it.

    1. I concur, Red - and thanks for the conversation throughout this series. I appreciated it.

      Have a great holiday,



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...