So far the Holocaust was represented through art in many ways. Books were written, movies were made and Art Spiegelman even wrote a comic about this difficult topic. Nevertheless in all times people wondered in how far it was legitimate to see the Holocaust as a literary inspiration. Until this day it is a very precarious issue that needs much tactfulness. Langer calls this kind of literature “literature of atrocity” and describes the problem as follows: “[…] literature of atrocity is concerned with an order of reality which the human mind had never confronted before, and whose essential quality the language of fact was simply insufficient to convey.” (Langer, 3). Writers and philosophers tend to debate whether it is a good and necessary thing to write about the Shoah. Few persons, above all the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno even demand that there shouldn’t be any books written about Auschwitz and the other camps. Yet this extreme point of view is quite rare, there are still many authors who claim the exact opposite and even think writing about the Holocaust is important and necessary. Langer writes: “The challenge to the literary imagination is to find a way of making this fundamental truth accessible to the mind and emotions of the reader.” (Langer, xii). Thus Langer thinks that presenting the Holocaust in a literary way gives people a better understanding of the whole topic. Since it was something so terrible, it might be difficult to imagine for people, at least to a certain extent. Employing it for a book or a movie provides the opportunity of seeing how things really have been. Moreover movies and books often tell about individual fates. This makes it easier for the reader/viewer to understand what was happening. In addition individual fates normally cause much more sympathy and empathy than any other non-fictional way of representing the Holocaust. Nevertheless it is still a broad consensus that using the Holocaust as a literary inspiration is an explosive issue, hence it is easy to make mistakes or to break a taboo. There are no real rules that could be followed: “The usual criteria for literature […]- originality, wit, formal innovation, and the sundry ‘pleasures of the text’- are suspended for depictions of the Holocaust.” (Doherty, 71). Concerning the fact of breaking taboos it is important to mention that there is a difference between those authors who are Holocaust survivors themselves and those who just made a story out of it. A survivor is allowed to provoke, even in terms of the Shoah. But this is hardly the case for any other author. (cf. Strümpel, Another difficulty is to represent the Holocaust in an appropriate and aesthetic way while keeping a correspondence to reality. It is not possible to create a horror movie or a thrilling novel since that would not pay justice to the seriousness of the topic and its victims. A book or a movie which deals with the Shoah should not crave for shocking and sensation. Yet the cruel crimes have to be demonstrated in a way. A solution for that can only be found on a fine line which is obviously not easy to find. However, Spiegelman’sMAUSreceived rave reviews. “[…] the pertinent and indelible visual backdrop toMausis the Holocaust itself. As much as any milestone in his-tory, the Holocaust is made real and vivid by its motion picture documentation. (Doherty, 75).
First Art Spiegelman was hardly confronted with the question whetherMAUSbelongs to fictional or non-fictional literature. This decision was rather made by editors who put the book on the bestseller list for fictional books. Spiegelman was very sensitive to that: “If your list were divided into literature and non-literature I could gracefully accept the compliment as intended, but to the extent that ‘fiction’ indicates a