I read during the holidays a book I had had on my bookshelves for years but never had the time or courage to pick up and read, Maus by Art Spiegelman.
This graphic novel is to me, both hard to read and yet, an absolute must. It tells the tale of a Polish Jew’s hardship and survival during the Holocaust during World War Two.
It is also the story of a relationships between a father and his son as Art Spiegelman, the author, interviews his father Vladek on how he and his beloved wife survived persecution, and later on, Auschwistz.
The graphic novel is gripping and poignant. There, Jews are mice; Germans are cats and Poles are pigs. But this does not undermine the message in the least. This book is a very good first person tale of darkness, doom and death.
But it is also a beautiful message of Love, Hope and Light; Vladek was able to survive thanks to his resourcefulness and combativity, one just can’t give up when survival is at stake.
In troubled times where politicians are bringing back with a vengeance the us versus them rhetoric, this book is a strong and much needed reminder that this kind of thinking only annihilates both the oppressed and the oppressor.
However big our differences might seem – origins, religions, political opinions, sexual orientations and so on – we ALL share a common humanity and planet. I remember a video interview by the late Belgian singer Jacques Brel that whether we are Walloon or Flemish, people look at kids the same way, love their partner the same way, smile at kids the same way, eat and drink the same food, breathe the same air and so on.
This is why I am always wary and angry of politicians or other leaders bringing an us vs them rhetoric. What is their agenda ? Why the hate and fear-mongering ? What is really behind it ? There are ample resources and space for everyone on Earth, we are all equal and we thus all have the same basic human rights.
In a time of rising populism in both Europe and America; now is the perfect time to read Maus. As it explains how dehumanizing the other kills. While this does not happen overnight, words become threats, threats become physical violence and ultimately, mass incarceration and even, murder.
Maus is just the perfect book for our times so that we do not let History repeat itself and that we do not send million of people to death just because they are different.