Shalom Life | May 06, 2015

Russian Retailers Pull 'Maus' from Shelves

Art Spiegelman's ironic graphic novel, in the face of crackdowns on ‘Nazi propaganda,’ is being pulled from Russian bookstores and online sites

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: April 29th, 2015 in Culture » Books » News

Russian Retailers Pull 'Maus' from Shelves

Photo: Pages and cover of Art Spieglman's 'Maus'


The inspirational and moving graphic novel Maus is being pulled from Russian bookstores. Written and illustrated by American artist Art Spiegelman, it won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize and was only published in Russia in 2013.

Despite it having sold over 100,000 copies in Russia, Maus is being removed from the shelves, and websites, of major book retailers. According to Varvara Gornostayeva, chief editor at Corpus (the book’s publisher), as quoted by The Times of Israel, “they [retailers] have removed the book. It was selling very well and nobody had ever sent us any official complaints.”

What seems to be sparking the mass removal of Maus is its cover, which features a father and son both drawn as mice, with Hitler’s face (drawn as a cat) in the center, all behind a stylized swastika. And it’s the swastika which is causing concern.

Russian authorities have been cracking down on “Nazi propaganda,” which predominantly includes merchandise sporting swastikas. They’ve been raiding everything from antique shops to toy stores with the hopes of removing the insignia from public sight. They’ve been even stricter with May 9th fast approaching, which will mark the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory over the Nazis in the second World War.

“They are waiting for checks and decided to clean up their shelves,” explained Darya Peshchikova, a reporter for Echo Moscow Radio, on Twitter.

However Maus isn’t a book filled with Nazi propaganda, but rather the story of Spiegelman and his father. The graphic novel recounts his parent’s survival during the Holocaust, their move to the United States, and Spiegelman’s own narrative of what it was like growing up as their child.

The illustrations are simply drawn, but infinitely fascinating as each nationality is drawn as a different animal. The Germans are illustrated as cats, the Jewish peoples are drawn as mice, the Americans as dogs, etc. He also uses the book to explore the idea of identity, with animals changing from cats to mice in just one panel.

“There is no Nazi propaganda in it, this is a book that should be on the shelves on Victory Day,” said Gornostayeva. “It’s one of the greatest anti-fascist books, with a deep and piercing message.”

Despite this fact, three of Moscow’s largest book chains have removed the book from their shelves and deny having sold the book on their website, despite cached versions of their sites showing otherwise. According to the report, when a representative of Biblio Globus was contacted about having seen the book on their page only days ago, he simply replied, “it must be a mistake.”

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