Explained: Why Pulitzer Prize-winning novel ‘Maus’ topped Amazon best-seller list

Unanimous decision by the McMinn County School Board in Tennessee, United States, to withdraw the graphic novel by American Jewish cartoonist Art Spiegelman the mouse Its curriculum has seen a unique outcry—on January 28, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book climbed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list in the categories of satire, graphic fiction, and graphic novel in a show of defiance against censorship. Sunday January 30 in general for all books, full mouse He ranked third and first volume of the book, Maus I: A Survivor’s TaleIt ranked second.

What prompted the ban?

On January 10, at a McMinn County School Board meeting, members found some objectionable images in the primary graphic novel based on the Holocaust experience lived by the author’s parents from a polemicist Jew. The board cited eight swear words and a nude illustration as reasons for its omission from the eighth grade syllabus. The minutes show that the members of the board of directors agree that the supposed text is inappropriate. While one member agrees that the Holocaust was “horrific, brutal and cruel,” he makes an exception for its portrayal in the book. “It shows hanging people, it shows they are killing children, so why is the education system promoting this kind of thing? It is not wise or healthy.” Another board member was quoted as saying, “We don’t need these things to teach kids history. We can teach them history and we can teach them illustrated history. We can tell them exactly what happened, but we don’t need all the nudity and all the other things.”

The decision, which came days before the International Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust on January 27, was met with widespread protest both in the local community and around the world. The school board supported their decision, stating that it was not a ban, but merely a replacement with text more appropriate for the intended age group.

the mouseKeep the memory of the Holocaust

A series from 1980-1991 on Raw, an experimental animation and graphics magazine directed by Spiegelman and his wife Françoise Molly, the mouse It is a curved postmodern genre work on the inhumane effects of the Holocaust. Based on a series of interviews Spiegelman conducted with his father Vladeck, the book pays homage to the horrors of the genocide that killed nearly 6 million Jews.

The book alternates between two timelines – Vladeck’s narrative takes place in the years leading up to World War II, between 1930 until the end of World War II in 1945 and talks about how he and his wife survived Auschwitz, while the other timeline begins in 1978-79, in their youth Spiegelmann, before jumping back to 1986, is in the second part of the book. The segments explore Spiegelman’s feelings of guilt, sadness and anger in dealing with his family’s past and the death of his older brother, Richio, during the Nazi massacre. The writer examines his difficult relationship with his father and the death of his mother by suicide in the years since the end of the Holocaust.

The book begins with a quotation from the German dictator, Adolf Hitler: “Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human beings.” In a subversive twist of Nazi propaganda at the time that characterized Jews as insects, in his hand-drawn illustrations, Spiegelmann depicts people with animal characteristics—Germans are shown as cats, Poles as pigs, while Jews, in general, are depicted as rats.

After an initial struggle to find a publisher, Pantheon Books picked up the first six chapters in 1986 for the first volume, Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale. Later, Allantion produced the second volume and, eventually, an arranged volume from both parts.

Since its publication, the book’s reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Spiegelman’s bold experimentation with form and narration elevated the mass of comics into serious literature, thus changing the concept of the genre. In the years since, the book has been translated into more than 30 languages ​​and won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, the only graphic novel to receive the award to date. A pioneering work, he was at the Center for Critical Studies on Postmodern, Post-Memory and Holocaust Studies.

What are the protests about?

In a recent opinion article on CNN, journalist and historian David M. Perry writes that the real reason people are afraid the mouse Not for his portrayal of profanity or violence, but because of a “fundamental misunderstanding of what education is. To ban the mouse For being an uncomfortable reading she is, in fact, against teaching the Holocaust, notwithstanding the protests of school board members to the contrary. To actually engage in the horror of the Holocaust, one must feel the horror, be thrown out of his comfort zone, and deal with the terrible and chaotic reality.”

The protests are also a reaction to an ongoing right-wing push for cultural conservatism in America and around the world, which is increasingly leading to censorship of academic and literary freedoms and freedom of expression on issues such as race, gender, religion and gender. In the wake of the ban, author Neil Gaiman tweeted, “There’s only one kind of person who would vote to ban a mouse, no matter what they call themselves these days,” while poet Maggie Smith tweeted, “We’re out of our damn minds if we think it’s to keep kids safe.” At school, we need to ban books, not assault weapons.” The American Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. tweeted, “the mouse Play a vital role in Holocaust education by sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors… Teaching about the Holocaust using books such as the mouse It can inspire students to think critically about the past and their roles and responsibilities today.”

In an interview with CNNSpiegelman, now 73, called the school board’s decision “short-sighted” and said, “It involves the breadth of authoritarianism and fascism.”

Moss’ previous disagreements with censorship

However, this is not the first time that the book has been at the center of attempts at censorship. While being published in Germany in the 1990s, the mouse He got into legal trouble due to the swastika appearing on the cover of the book. Since German laws do not allow swastikas to be displayed on the covers of books that are not works of academic history, the German Ministry of Culture had to step in to allow it to be published.

In 2015, Russia moved to withdraw copies of the mouse for her display of the swastika in compliance with a law prohibiting Nazi propaganda. In an interview with Watchman In April 2015, in response to the decision, Spiegelman said, “It’s a real shame because this is a book about memory…we don’t want cultures to erase memory.”


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