About Maus Background notes
Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale is published in two volumes:
Maus: A Survivor's Tale, I: My Father Bleeds History. New York: Pantheon, 1986. (ISBN 0-394-74723-2)
Maus: A Survivor's Tale, II: And Here My Troubles Began. New York: Pantheon, 1991. (ISBN 0-679-72977-1)
Written over a thirteen-year period, the books tell the story of Spiegelman's attempts to learn about his father and mother's experiences as Jews during the Holocaust and later as survivors in the United States. Maus also documents Spiegelman's difficult relationship with his father, his own search for understanding as a survivor of this relationship, and his artistic odyssey in creating the work. The historical content is based on dialogues between Spiegelman and his father, Vladek, over many years. Spiegelman uses animal heads with human bodies to portray characters: Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, Americans are dogs, Frenchmen are frogs, Swedes are reindeer. While the subjects treated in the books are serious, there is also humor. The setting moves from Rego Park, New York, to various cities and towns in Poland, to a resort in the Catskill Mountains, to Germany, to Florida to Sweden. This device helps Spiegelman tell the larger story of the Holocaust with the authority of a survivor's memories while at the same time telling the story of his family's history and relationships during and after World War II. The books are hard to classify since they have elements of fiction, nonfiction, biography and autobiography.