Monday, July 18, 2011
The Emmigrants is a most peculiar book about the Holocaust, because the Holocaust is almost completely absent from its pages. Sebald understands that the enormous complications arising from that most dread event in a most dread century can be regarded largely as problems of memorialization and remembrance. By portraying a series of lightly fictionalized memoirs of Jews who left Europe in time to escape atrocity, he evades the Holocaust not at all: it permeates the text. It's a book of sublime subtlety, and quietly devestating.
And yes, there is a theme here: I'm reading up for a big Holocaust/WW2 Expedition this fall.
So what can I say about Maus? Like many people, Spiegelman has to handle an aging parent with whom he has little in common, and who is often frankly an intolerable jerk. But Spiegelman's father survived the Holocaust, including a stint during the final stages at Auschwitz, and he did so by actively hustling his way through. Spiegelman admires his father even when it's terribly difficult to do so, and these books are a loving tribute to his memory.