An Introduction

This is the opening paragraph of a paper I’m working on. I’m not quite sure what is motivating me to post it up here but if you feel like commenting do so. Excuse any grammatical mistakes. I still haven’t been through the final edit.

One of the truly remarkable aspects of Art Spiegelman’s Maus is the degree to which the story’s rendering through comix enables the constant overlap of temporalities, subjectivities and what might otherwise be described as discrete aspects of a single narrative to coexist in so fruitful a manner. Though Maus is ostensibly about his father Vladek’s experiences before, during, and after the terrible events of the Second World War—his bleeding of history, as the subtitle of the first volume indicates—Spiegelman frames it within his own first person narrative, beginning during his childhood in 1958 in Maus I, and concluding in the early 1980s in Maus II. That the first volume begins with a story Spiegelman is, in fact, retelling himself and not through his father’s words, and ends with a depiction of his father in bed, tiredly asserting to Artie that “it’s enough stories for now…”, conveys the confused, mixed, and not always complementary impulses at play in the work.[1] As if aware of the comic form, diverse content and narratological organization which these interviews would eventually become in Maus, these are stories, not merely a story, to Vladek: not one, but many. This metatextual moment, the final last dialogue in Maus II (followed only by a drawing of Vladek and Anja’s [Art Spiegelman’s mother] shared headstone) indicates the multifarious and collective qualities of memory and history, and the recognition on Vladek and Art’s part that the production of neither memory nor history are purely individuated projects; both exist always already exposed to the effects of the numerous factors, motivations, dialogues, purposes and interpretations. Indeed, stories, particularly historical narratives, are always unfinished, always trailing off. They may, in a sense, be more of less comprehensive as far as their immediate intentions are concerned, but they never fulfill a totality of meaning in a hermetically sealed whole. To say “it’s enough” is not to mean literally that we have enough; it instead indicates the incommensurability and inexhaustibility of stories despite the exhaustive effort demanded in their production. The “for now…” The ellipsis with which the story reaches some sort of open-ended finality demands a continuation. The story must be passed down, elaborated upon, and continued as the passage of time continues to mold, even if imperceptively, its meaning and legacy.

[1] Art Spiegelman, Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale, And Here my Troubles Began, (New York: Pantheon, 1991), 136.


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