on 9 January 2004
I really really loved this book, which I bought because of a couple of glowing reviews in newspapers. Its so good, I'd say you're really missing out if you haven't read it. Everyone I buy it for ends up buying it for their friends too. Basically its the story of a very precocious girl living in Tehran with liberal secular parents and how they live through the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, but its not heavy-going despite that. Its full of both funny and poignant moments, and the author is fairly frank about how as a child she would cause her folks loads of stress. The way she works the story between the words and images is wonderful. Buy it! You'll love it. I'm reserving the next volume right now.
on 26 December 2007
This book traces the life of young girl growing up in turbulent times in Iran, beginning with life under the Shah, moving on to the revolution and continuing through the Iran / Iraq war. The girl narrates anecdotes from her own life that provide a thought-provoking window onto the way these events affected ordinary individuals. The choice of a comic strip to portray events of such significance and tragedy has some disadvantages, one being the limits it places on the possibilities of characterization. On the other hand, there are also numerous advantages. The illustrations can at times be quite powerful, the simplicity of the format is used effectively to highlight the stark brutality and poignancy of the events portrayed, and perhaps above all, the graphic novel format makes a story with such important themes accessible to people of all ages.
on 18 May 2008
Marjane Satrapi was ten-years-old when the Islamic revolution took away her freedom and rights, thrusting Iran back into the Dark Ages. Through simple but elegant illustrations, Satrapi tells the story of her childhood in Tehran during this time in her country's history. She shows the horrors and deprivations caused by the rise of religious extremists, as well as the bitter humour and courage that each ordinary citizen found to survive such a period.
The amazing thing about this graphic novel is how Satrapi can convey and stir emotions through illustrations. The themes she explores are universal - families torn apart, innocents persecuted, evil gaining power - but she makes them all the more powerful by injecting her young self's punk humour into the storytelling and making the reader care for her and her family. There's a sequel, which I can't wait to read, as well as a film, which is being touted as 2008's winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar.
With Iran so often villified in the media, it's good to be reminded that the people in that country are just like you and I: not necessarily the choosers of their regime; and certainly not deserving of any bombs coming their way.
An absolutely wonderful telling of Iranian history by means of b/w cartoons. Opening in 1980, when the author, aged 10, is a - not surprisingly outspoken child- of very westernized, Marxist parents, she takes us through the Revolution against the Shah. There are always underlying fears as some of her parents' friends are murdered. But the people's joy at the overthrowing of the Shah soon becomes fear at the rising Islamic republic: as mere boys are drafted into the army, many of her friends emigrate. And she and her liberated mother must toe the line and wear a veil.
Marjane includes little snippets that are significant to a teenager: her parents smuggling pop posters in for her after a trip to Turkey, shopping with friends, her anger at the politically correct lines spouted by her teacher. But also the horrific - the escalating war with Iraq, and the Iranians' refusal to make peace because 'they eventually admitted that the survival of the regime depended on the war'.
The book ends with Marjane being sent to continue her education in Europe.....the story continues in book 2.
I was surprised that a book of this format could be this moving. You really feel you get to know the 'characters' as the author does such a good job of portraying emotion in simple little pictures.
This wonderfully informative graphic novel makes the political personal and meaningful, within simple black and white images that reminded me of the work of Art Spiegelman, who took the world by storm with his recreation of the Holocaust as a tale of cats against mice. This graphic novel doesn't have quite that ambition and bite, but it is a brilliant potted history of Iran. Told through the eyes of a child in Satrapi's simplistic yet expressive black-and-white artwork, the story shows how young Marjane learns about her family history and how it is entwined with the history of Iran, and watches her liberal parents cope with a fundamentalist regime that gets increasingly rigid as it gains more power. Outspoken and intelligent, Marjane chafes at Iran's increasingly conservative interpretation of Islamic law, especially as she grows into a bright and independent teenager. Satrapi left Iran when she was twelve years-old when her parents decided she would have better chances of a good education in the West and sent her to live with friends in Austria.
Persepolis gives the reader a poignant if highly stylised picture of a country struggling with an internal cultural revolution and a bloody war with Iraq. It's a very human history, briefly yet sympathetically told.
on 28 July 2008
Persepolis is based on Marjane Satrapi's life but as she has repeatedly said in different interviews it is not her biography. In other words what goes on in the book is not what exactly happened to her.
The story begins by describing the revolutionary environment of her childhood and the sudden and radical social changes that took place around that time. Some of the accounts are exaggerated and many are closer to urban legends than truth, although, it is understandable that, as a child, even milder versions of what happened could have had the same traumatising effects on a child that the reader gets from the first few chapters.
As an Iranian I identified myself much more with the events that followed her departure to Europe. Satrapi depicts the rebellious character of hers brilliantly. She runs away from the accepted norms of the society in Europe as she does with the new social codes forming in Iran. On the other hand she lacks confidence in expressing her self and faces an identity crisis which leaves her feeling "as a westerner in Iran and as an Iranian in the west". After her return to Iran and the end of the war she faces yet more new realities. Again the depiction of the modern/westernised looking society that remains ultra conservative underneath the surface is excellent.
Overall I think the book is very successful in showing the realities associated with a certain forgotten class of society in Iran but is unnecessarily exaggerating the behaviour of the new government. This I believe is the direct result of her not being engaged with the lower social classes which form the majority of the population of Iran.
Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian author and illustrator, now living in France, who was born in what was then called Persia in 1969. Her parents were members of the intelligentsia, communists, and descendants of the Persian Royal family. Some family members had been imprisoned by the Shah. She was 10 when the Shah was overthrown. Her family had demonstrated against him, but were opponents of what became known as `The Islamic Revolution' Aged 14, in 1984 Marjane was sent away to Austria by her family, who could see the writing on the wall for her as a young girl in a country becoming ever more fundamentalist.
In her foreword, to this book, Persepolis, The Story of a Childhood, published in translation into English in 2003, Satrapi demonstrates a deep love of her country and its cultured history. Part of her aim is to offset the West's view of Iran as a country of belligerent, fundamentalist fanatics and terrorists :
"I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists. I also don't want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten"
And all of the categories of sufferers in the last sentence, were also members of her family, her close friends - and of course, she herself was in that last category.
So.....what is it which might lift this book out of being a harrowing, awful, account of suffering?
Though it certainly contains much harrow, this is a graphic novel - which might indeed be read by the young adult, as it is an personal account of Marjane's childhood from aged 6 to when she left her home in 1984. But I would say it is primarily a graphic novel for adults. It has been compared, believably, to Art Spiegelman's Maus, which deals with the Holocaust, and its effects on survivors and their families, through the same medium.
This is of course - as all recounting and interpretations of history are - a subjective account. But the subjective view of events has its own truth, and when a narrator is clear enough to let the viewer see their subjectivity, it is enormously helpful. Academic tomes strive for objectivity, and sometimes believe they are completely objective, but all our views are coloured by our own cultural and personal backgrounds
Enough of the polemic
Marjane is a delightful little 6 year old - a child who is both political in her viewpoint (early reading was a comic book version of `Dialectical Materialism') who can `play revolutionaries' with her schoolfriends, wanting to be Che, Trotsky or Castro - whilst still holding to her first ambition - her family were atheists, but Marjane wanted to be a prophet when she grew up, her `Holy Book' that of Zarathustra, the Persian, not the Arabic religion.
Marjane spent quite a lot of time talking to God, who in her mind looked remarkably like Marx `except Marx's hair was a bit curlier'
I read this with a mixture of laughter and tears. We view, often, globally, casting entire nations as devils or angels - my angels, your devils. We all can do with reminding that all nations are as full of individuals, with their own unique histories and stories, as our own.
There is a further autobiographical graphic novel, Persepolis 2, in which Marjane covers her difficult adolescence in Austria, and an eventual return to Iran. The author, as stated, now lives in France, has published more books, and is also an award-winning film-maker - Persepolis and her novel, Chicken with Plums, were both filmed, and she has both directed and written screenplays, both of her own work, and of others.