Saturday, October 11, 2014

Risk-Taking Researcher Rotation 1 - Alexandre

What makes Maus different from the other literature circle books (besides Persepolis), is that Maus is a graphic novel. It was published in 1991 by Art Spiegelman and it tells the story of his father as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. In the book, the Jewish characters are portrayed as mice, the Germans as cats, and the non-Jewish Polish characters as pigs. Art in the book, represents the author himself while Vladek represents the author's father who was a Holocaust survivor. 

Though many may not realize it, graphic novels have been around for centuries. Storytelling through sequential art can be dated back to prehistoric mankind. Many say that the art of graphic novels first emerged during Cro-Magnon times and evolved along with us, Homo Sapien Sapiens. This evolution has been hidden throughout history, be it in Egyptian hieroglyphs, cave paintings, religious art, etc. The term "graphic novel", first emerged in 1964 and became familiarized after the successes of books such as Maus. 

I believe that part of Maus' success was due, in part, to the way that the author makes the characters seem realistic (since they are real), while not creating a very personal atmosphere that could generate discomfort. By also representing humans with innocent wildlife, a lot of World War II's gruesome reality and details are softened, creating an overall easier experience to handle. 

Since Maus focuses around Poland during the German invasion, I decided to find some background knowledge on the subject. Basically, World War II commenced with Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland. On September 1st, 1939, German forces began the unexpected occupation of the Republic of Poland. The German forces were composed of approximately 1,300 aircraft units and around 60 soldier divisions ( Staff). On the night of September 1st, the Republic of Poland sent an emergency request for military assistance to its allies, in hopes that Britain and France would fulfill the April 1939 Anglo-French agreement to protect Poland ( Staff). Both countries responded to Poland's cry for help, and declared war on Germany. However, Hitler's victory came quickly and acted as the spark that would ignite the flames of war for 6 years around the globe. 

"Aerial view of bombs exploding during a German bombing run over Poland in September, 1939"
Officially speaking, Hitler's campaign against Poland lasted for 26 days before his battered target gave in, but the German Blitzkrieg sent all of Europe into a state of chaos and uncertainty that soon gave way to pure fear. 

The attack against Poland began at six in the morning as Warsaw was thrashed by the first of many bombing raids ( Staff). As the bombs fell from the sky on the Polish capital, German armies poured out of Slovakia and Prussia and invaded the land. Quickly, the advanced German air force obliterated the Polish Air Force and dominated the skies. With the skies open, German planes directed their attacks at Polish infrastructure, such as railways and roads, as well as Polish troops. German dive bombers, namely Junkers Ju-87 ( Staff), spread terror among Polish citizens forcing them to flee and block up roads, stopping the Polish army from reaching the front lines. The German soldiers quickly ate up the land, and by September 15th, Warsaw was encircled. On the 27th of September 1939, the Republic of Poland fell under Nazi Germany ( Staff). 

"German infantry advancing on the outskirts of Warsaw, Poland on September 16, 1939"

Sources: Staff. "Poland." History. History, 2014. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. <>.

Tychinski, Stan. "A Brief History of the Graphic Novel." Diamond Bookshelf. Diamond Comic Distributors, 2014. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. <>.

Taylor, Alan. "World War II: The Invasion of Poland and the Winter War."The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 26 June 2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. <>.

1 comment:

  1. Alexandre,

    I did risk taking researcher as well, and I researched something similar to what you researched. When I first read the book I had no idea it was a survivors story. First of all because it was a graphic novels and there were animals in the story as people. Usually true stories are in novels like Red Scarf Girl. Even though Red Scarf Girl was a good book I have always wanted to see a true story in book come in pictures. Like graphic novels. So, when I hear we were reading Maus (which I have heard of before but never picked it up) I was excited. Another reason why I did not know that Maus was based on a true story was because he used animals instead of people. Specifically mice, cats, and pigs. The main question I am asking you is, why do you think he chose to draw animals instead of people? Why those specific animals? Would you draw a graphic novel like that? I did a little research about it myself and he said that he was part of a comix group in San Francisco,and one of his friends started to draw animals for a book of his called Funny Animals. He took inspiration from that but drew them in a more dark way. Also when you said that graphic novels really started with the homo sapiens I thought that was very interesting. Because when you really think about it the caveman told stories by pictures. Which is what graphic novels do, and I think it is interesting that we carried out those ideas into the modern world. But do you think stories are better told by pictures or by words? In my opinion the real start of storytelling started with the caveman by pictures. And I like picturing things in my head and leave it to my imagination to picture the story. So, for me I like books with words better. Because that is what creative writers try to do. They want to make you imagine and be a part of a whole new world. But at the same time I think telling a story with pictures is also a really good way of telling a story. For example Maus really makes me feel more empathy for Valdek. Mostly because there are drawings of him looking more unhealthy every day. So, pictures really make you show empathy for the characters and you really want to do that in stories like this one. Because it is how he survived the Holocaust and like what you're researched said it was a very dark time and so many Jews were killed. So for him to survive was inspiring. Overall your research taught me a lot new thing that I did not know, good job.