This is the difficult story of Katin and her mother faking their deaths to escape the Nazi occupation of Budapest in WWII. This retelling is not obsessed with fact so much as feeling. The story is reconstructed from Katin’s own memories, her mother’s stories and letters her mother wrote to her father. Although WWll parallels will likely bring to mind Spiegelman’s Maus, Katin’s approach is better compared to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
The opening sequences demonstrate a mastery of the medium-beautiful in pacing, composition and concept. The first frames cinematically pull out of an extreme close up of black Bible text to reveal the white space around it, which Katin equates to light, then pushes into an extreme close up of the swastika, which results in a full frame of black to represent darkness.
The most compelling part of this book is seeing the horrors of war through the perspective of a child. Katin manages to stay true to the innocent way a child tries to understand death (thinking the dog is sleeping), and the simple way a child tries to determine who is good and who is bad in a complicated time.
The greater theme of Katin’s book is the questioning of faith as she tries to maintain her belief in God after enduring such awful things. Katin draws you into a journey that enables you to understand how her faith in God is challenged and why that questioning is left rather unresolved. A must read. (S.Malik)
by Miriam Katin, $24.95, 136 pgs, Drawn and Quarterly P.O. Box 48056, Montreal, QC, H2V 4S8, drawnandquarterly.com