Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Endless Forms of Travel

Art Spiegelman’s Maus II follows the journey of both Art and his father Vladek, the journey of one’s recognition and understanding of a family’s past and of another’s recollection. Although Art, through his graphic novel, recounts the story of Vladek’s incredibly harsh concentration camp experiences, relaying the story of his family’s past to the reader, he also manages to relay his own journey in writing the history, his journey of coming to terms with his emotions for his family and for his father and producing a work that combines both the historical and the emotional. He creates a work that combines multiple different forms of life travel.

While Vladek’s Holocaust journey is the inspiration for Art’s graphic novel, this experience is something that Art cannot easily relate to because it is not his own, he has not been to Auschwitz. The novel may seem to be a way to capture solely his father’s journey, but Art turns it into a work that captures his own writing process and journey of understanding and appreciation. Through the graphics of Art and his father, the graphics that capture the way Art extracts his father’s history, the reader sees that Art is growing and changing as he gathers information and even as he reviews his writing process (and writes the final book). The graphic novel shows the power of writing for the author because he expresses a sense of maturity and feeling towards his father and most importantly towards himself, a person that he is trying to figure out a way of coming to terms with. Art’s strong, intimate writing also shows the power of literature as a shared form of travel, of literature as a developing form for the reader, who gains a new insight and therefore mentally transforms or travels, and for the author.

Maus II, along with the other examples of travel literature that we have read, puts into a clear perspective the idea that travel can present itself in an infinite number of forms, that everything about life is a form of travel. This is the idea about travel that surprised me the most, that it exists everywhere, that every piece of literature can be recognized as a form of travel, even if it does not specifically trace a typical “journey” or profound physical travel; the class could have read any work of literature to recognize the presence of travel. Seeing life and everything about life as millions of separate journeys, as millions of possible ideas for literature, is a great way to put one’s individual experiences into a bigger perspective, a great way to see the beauty and growth in everything we do and think.

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