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Levine, M.G. (2002). Necessary Stains: Spiegelman's MAUS and the Bleeding of History. Am. Imago, 59(3):317-341.

(2002). American Imago, 59(3):317-341

Necessary Stains: Spiegelman's MAUS and the Bleeding of History

Michael G. Levine

“In making MAUS, I found myself drawing every panel, every figure, over and over—obsessively—so as to pare it down to an essence, as if each panel was an attempt to invent a new word, rough-hewn but streamlined.”

—Art Spiegelman, “Little Orphan Annie's Eyeball.”

The publication of Art Spiegelman's MAUS “comix,” the first volume of which appeared in 1986 and the second in 1991, has helped to define an important turning point in the history of Holocaust testimony.1 Forty years after the Second World War, many survivors had reached a point in their lives where they knew that if ever there was a time to pass on their experience as a “legacy,” it was now (Hartman 1996, 133-50). It was also a time when the children of survivors began to participate in increasing numbers in the process of bearing witness. For this second generation it was a question not only of helping to elicit their parents' stories—of persuading them to write, speak, or agree to be interviewed—but also of coming to terms with their own implication in their parents' experiences. Indeed, many of these children had come to the discovery that the stories of the first generation had already been passed on to them, that they themselves had become the unwitting bearers of a traumatic legacy.

For Spiegelman, the question of Holocaust survival is not only a matter of who survives as a witness, but of the interminable nature of the Holocaust itself.

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