“Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” by Art Spiegelman

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (Maus, #1)(Author: Art Spiegelman) + (Year: 1986) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I first heard about this book in my History of Political Film class last year, after we watched the actual videos of the Nazi propaganda about Jews being vermin. Since then I have wanted to read the graphic novel and see the approach of the artist toward the issue.

It would be hard to say that Maus is not an influential book. It presents the viewpoint of a survivor from the Holocaust in nothing less than original medium. While I was reading Maus, I realized that I have watched many movies about the hardships of the Jews during the Holocaust, but that I haven’t actually read any books about it. I was really impressed by the simple but terrifying narrative of this book.

What is more, the characters in Maus are very realistic. The author doesn’t try to sugarcoat their personalities in order to manipulate the emotions of the readers. Neither Art, nor his father, or any of the other characters that come and go, are perfect. In fact, they are all hard to like, in one way or another. That doesn’t diminish the tragedy that they suffered, it just makes them as human as the rest of us, and shows that no one has the privilege of being safe under the threat of tyranny.

That being said, I will return back to the two main characters, Art and Vladek. To Vladek I had more sympathy, because in the present he is a old man and a lot of his bad traits could have come with age and suffering. But Art is intolerable. He is mean, rude, and he really doesn’t seem to care about what his parents went through. He is just greedy, overly eager to take this story from his father and profit from it. During every scene where he was present, I had a strong urge to cringe by how bad of a person and of a son he is.

From a moral point of view, everything about this book if bothersome. The entire history of the Holocaust is atrocious. That much should be universally clear.

From artistic point of view, there was one thing that bothered me about Maus, and that is the depiction of Poles. As far as the literal depiction of them as pigs (which are considered unclean [non-kosher] in Jewish culture), I understand that the author used the way Nazis referred to Poles as “swine”. However, even if we dismiss that, because the author used the same metaphor in depicting Jews as mice, the author does his best to present Poles as traitors and people who only helped the Jews to gain from it. Even if some of them did so, let’s not forget that there were also Jewish law enforcers whose job was to give other Jews to the Nazis. A large number of Poles aided the hiding and protection of Jews, and were detained, sent to labour camps, or executed for it. As well as the fact that if up to 6 million Jews died in concentration camps, so did about 2 million Poles (a large number of the Polish people I know have had relatives in concentration camps, too). I don’t want to be misunderstood. I do not, in any way, want to make the horror that happened to the Jews seem any smaller. However, I do not think that the artistic choice of representation of the nationality/ethnic group that suffered the most after Jews is fair in Maus.

“13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi” by Mitchell Zuckoff

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi

(Author: Mitchell Zuckoff) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


Review:

To the point: this is a very powerful and captivating book. It’s also highly informative about not only the events themselves, but prior to that, about Libya’s state before and after the fall of Gaddafi.

The writing of the author is what you’d expect from a journalist: to the point and making an impression. I shy from saying that I enjoyed his style, because the events of 13 Hours are so horrifying that I can’t say there is any place for enjoying anything in it.

That doesn’t, of course, mean that it’s a bad book. On the contrary, it leaves a mark and it makes you think. You can see some bias, but it’s not that Zuckoff is fervently defending his country against the big bad wolf – he is showing admiration and affection about the soldiers that fought in Benghazi that night. A country has nothing to do with it, there is no idealizing of the unworthy. On the contrary, the author is actually challenging some of the decisions that the American government made that night, which on the other hand makes me feel admiration to the author, as well as the Benghazi operatives. So much, in fact, that I’m actually willing to show trust, to a degree, whereas I usually have very mixed feelings about books depicting either side of a war, because I always expect too much bias and therefore changing up the events as the author sees fit. With 13 Hours I think it’s possible to accept that the account of the soldiers is as realistic as it can be.

There are a few frustrating things surrounding the 9/11/2012 events though.

1. What kind of animals are these people?* I know that nowadays it’s not politically correct to judge other nations and etc. But… it’s animals we are talking about. I hold a firm belief that there are many Muslim people on this planet who are just normal and sane. However, there are also way too many fanatics and psychopaths. I’m not Muslim and yet I’m aware that Jihad is not necessarily war against the world and it can easily be seen as war against the self. But it is convenient for these brainwashed freaks to use their religion as an excuse to massacre thousands and millions of people, including their own, and this is something for which I think death is too little of a punishment.

* All of this is as relevant today as it was three years ago, since as everyone is aware, the brutality in the Middle East has not ceased and has, in fact, become even more horrifying.

2. What exactly happened to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens? Because in the book, as well as in Wikipedia, it says that he died from suffocation, was later taken to the hospital and after that retrieved “fully clothed” for the flight to Tripoli. However, in many articles reigns the statement that he was tortured and raped and on the pictures, one of which also shown in the book, you can see that his shirt is badly damaged and possibly torn, if not missing altogether in other pictures. So there is no way that his body arrived “fully clothed” at the airport. And here lies one of the things that bugs me about books that have to do with military history – there are inconsistencies.

3. Where was the White house in all of this?

At first it seemed to me that they really didn’t give a flying f*ck what was going on in Benghazi that night. Why didn’t the troops in Spain and Italy deploy? Why weren’t any planes sent? There was no help close by? It would take nine hours, counting from the start of the attack, for help to get there? GUESS WHAT: these people were fending for their lives for 13 hours. And I’m positive that if it was a hotspot that you cared more about, you’d find a way to teleport whatever and whoever you needed. But what’s the life of 30 people when there is Afghanistan’s oil to fight about.

But then I started thinking:

Why wasn’t the team allowed to leave the Annex? What were the commanders waiting for, were they really expecting the 17 February militia to take care of this, because it seems unlikely. UNLESS: was it very convenient that yet another drama unfold, right on 9/11, to show the already frightened Americans how bad the Libyans are and how important it is that America is constantly partaking in some military conflict.

Also, it is obvious that the Compound wasn’t secure and there were not nearly enough men to protect it.

Why, you’d ask?

Because the government needed American victims, innocent American blood spilled. They were obviously expecting an attack, they were even warned. Later, of course, the story pushed especially by Clinton, was that this highly organized, planned and mapped-out attack was the result of a spur of the moment anger of a handful of Libyan shepherds who were outraged by some movie. Spare me. If I went in front of the White house and threw my lit cigarette in the garden, it would be announced as the result of heavily planned riot.

So what’s convenient: We pretend that we don’t know anything, we pretend that everything is all right, we pretend that there is no threat. We give up as many lives as necessary and we spin the tale about how our interest lies in protecting our people and not stealing the oil of North Africa and the Middle East.

Here is the recipe:

1 x Dead ambassador aka an official representative of the United States.

3 x (or as many as possible) Dead soldiers who were doing their duty, protecting their comrades, fighting for their beloved country

= thousands of freshly motivated soldiers to continue spilling blood, thinking that this was is actually to protect the lives of their families, who are in fact thousands of miles away and least touched by these wars;

= USA keeps on fighting the good oil wars, money keeps spilling in, power keeps growing, on top of that we are helping out the world because there clearly cannot be so many people, aye?