Mouse

LEDA CATUNDA, All Personal, 2006, acrylic on fabric and voile, 247x333cm.
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By AFRANIO CATANI*

Art Spiegelman comic book commentary

Born in Stockholm in 1948 and naturalized American, Art Spiegelman was editor of the magazine The New Yorker (1993 to 2007) and co-founder and editor of Raw, a well-known publication of comics and avant-garde graphic arts. He exhibited his drawings and engravings in galleries and museums in several countries. Among the honors received by Mouse notable are the Pulitzer Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Published regularly on New York Times and The Village Voice, having been a professor at New York's School of Visual Arts.

Mouse, which in German means mouse, presents Poland during the Second World War as a scenario, in which the Nazis are cats, the Jews are mice, the Poles are pigs and the Americans are dogs. autobiographical, Mouse narrates the story of Vladek Spiegelman, father of Artie, the narrator, a Polish Jew survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The book is divided into two large parts, written at different times. The first, “My Father Bleeds History,” spans “the mid-30s to the winter of 1944,” while the narrative of “And Here My Troubles Began” is subtitled “From Mauschwitz to the Catskills and Beyond.”

Artie, in the book, is a young cartoonist who lives in the United States and seeks to understand his father's petty temperament – ​​a miser stereotype – and to reconcile with the memory of his mother (Anja), who committed suicide in 1968. The adventure of Vladek and Anja begins in the 1930s, shortly after the wedding, continuing throughout the war, in a sequence of escapes, persecutions, hiding in attics and basements, hangings and the systematic extermination of Jews. At the end of the armistice, Vladek and Anja had lost all their family members, including the boy Richieu, the couple's first child.

After the war, both emigrated to the United States. After being widowed, Artie's father married Mala, a friend of the couple, also a survivor of the concentration camps, making their lives unbearable: old, with heart problems, taking countless pills, he continued to save pennies and constantly talk that amended his will. In a certain part of the story, complaining to Artie, Mala accused Vladek of having married her due to her physical size, so that she could use all of Anja's wardrobe.

At another point Mala is even more caustic, saying that all her friends have been in concentration camps, but none are as nasty as Vladek. To which Artie adds: “It's something that worries me about the book I'm doing about him. In some ways he is like the racist caricature of the miserable Jew.”

All characters from Mouse are real, so much so that Artie thanks Mala “for her help in translating Polish books and documents” and for wanting the book to “happen”. It appears, throughout the reading, that Vladek's anxiety and paranoia – who as a young man attracted female rats like Rodolfo Valentino (so much so that the first chapter is entitled “The Sheik”) –, mainly due to to the experiences lived in the war, end up driving Anja to suicide.

Mouse It is a book that is already disturbing from its cover, in fact, the only colorful thing about this comic book: a couple of mice are hugging, with their eyes bulging. Above them, a Nazi swastika with Adolf Hitler on a cat face. A text published in The Times about the work he states that “all are terribly human”, cats, mice, pigs and dogs, although Hitler said that “the Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human”.

Human beings with animal heads, the characters of Mouse are drawn in black and white, with rustic features, but within a sophisticated narrative structure. On the occasion of the launch, the Associated Press commented expressively on the book: “Art Spiegelman turned Nazi Germany into a monstrous mousetrap”.

*Afranio Catani, a retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP, is currently a senior professor at the same institution. Visiting professor at UERJ, Duque de Caxias campus.

Reference


Art Spiegelman. Mauss: A Survivor's Story. Translation: Antonio de Macedo Soares. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2019 [40a. reprint], 296 pages (https://amzn.to/3KFm3co).


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