For me The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman was just such an experience. It traces Spiegelman’s own parents’early lives in Poland and their journey through the Holocaust. It won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1992 - becoming the first graphic novel ever to do so - in my view an accolade very well deserved. Spiegelman depicts his comic-book cast as animals: Jewish people are mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, Americans are dogs, Swedes are reindeer. By impersonalising the characters in this way and with a deceptively simple drawing style, Spiegelman in Maus manages to achieve something utterly remarkable, he makes us look at and see again stuff that most of us will have encountered with open-mouthed horror many times before, but in a totally new way. It becomes one of the most powerful personal testimonies I have ever read, as he, Spiegelman, interviews his not always endearing father in Rego Park, New York for his planned account of the Holocaust. We understand something of Spiegelman junior’s guilt about his mother’s suicide in 1968 shortly after he’d experienced a nervous breakdown, and the lifelong angst he felt about the death of a brother he never knew - at one point in Maus he starts drawing himself as a man hiding behind a mouse mask. He very cleverly conveys to the reader the extremely long-cast shadows of Auschwitz and Dachau, and the power of these camps to go on souring the lives of those who not only survived their inhuman cruelty, but were not yet even born.
I would simply run out of superlatives explaining this book’s worth.