PersepolisbyMarjane Satrapi

A few quick points about this book in a few broken & semi-constructed sentences …..! would love to spend more time on this later…

It is a Graphic Novel that sways through simple & innocuous looking child like drawings in stark black and white, and manages to surround the reader with a web of complex experiences, successfully, in the end. It is a portrait of a culture, which scrutinizes social practices &  traditions, & the relationship between Faith & Fanatacism,  in an intimate tone of a memoir blended wonderfully with the light stimulation of a comic book. While also touching upon the conflict between fundamentalism and the people’s basic desire to exercise  their right to  freedom of expression & freedome to be themselves…..intelligent, funny, and yet sensitive,  this book introduces us to Marji – an inquisitive six yr old kid who comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, and who grows up to face tumultous and introspective phase as a  Tween/Teenager.

The first book Persepolis : The Story of a Childhood, is the story of Marjane’s childhood and adolescence as a young Iranian in the times of the 1979 revolution, while the second book Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, is all about her stay in Austria, where her parents sent her at the age of 14, her return to her home country after struggling to adjust in a very different cultural  milieu. 

 Persepolis-1 …..The childhood of Marji, an intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, is wonderfully merged with the historical moments in her country’s journey – the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war and the resultant astounding contrasts between home life and public life….Persepolis 1 ends at 14-yr old Marjane leaving behind her home in Tehran, escaping from the restraining influence of fundamentalism and the country’s war situation with Iraq, to begin a new life in the West.  In Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, one meets a young, intrepid heroine through the next eight years of her life: lonely four years of high school in Vienna, followed by discomforting & depressing  four years back home in Iran – reflects a scorching criticism, in an incredibly honest voice, against fundamentalism and its damage to the human spirit – this phase captures one’s struggle against the reality that drives one to behave almost like an outsider at home, where one has no right to do things that one desires to do, date, or question authority.

 The true influence of fear on people and their daily lives is captured quite aptly – ‘It’s only natural!  When we’re afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection.  Our fear paralyzes us.  Besides, fear has always been the driving force behind all dictators’ repression”. The never ceasing & palpable conflict between the people and their repressive government is quite compellingly striking….and can one forget that highly discomforting feature of modern age – Passive consumption of lies : People sitting in their living rooms, consuming lies churned out by media, passively, and forming opinion about their nation and its relationship with the other huge influencers in the world culture….and that realisation of the never ceasing dynamics in the society that one lives, the ever increasing significance of ‘Family – concept’ in everyone’s life & the society, the differences one feels between the culture in which one was raised “We Iranians, we’re crushed not only by the government but by the weight of our traditions!”, the guiding philosophy {of resignation, here} “When a big wave comes, lower your head and let it pass”, and the other alien culture into which one tries to assimilate. One could easily identify self with the strategies that younger generation employ, in the book, to make sense of the political realities of the world around them and the palpable disparity between their public lives and their private lives, while negotiating a wide range of restrictions planted across their paths. And their conscious effort to embrace the age-old rituals and customs, enthusiastically, post exposure to an alien culture that they originally do not belong to.

“Humor is the writer’s armor against the hard emotions….” said American Writer – William Zinsser, and for Satrapi “every situation offered an opportunity for laughs” ….she feels laughter is “the only way to bear the unbearable” satrapi Persepolis” was adapted into a sensational animated feature by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud – a seering story that makes a compelling point of view on complex things in life through simple pictures… 

Satrapi claims the film isn’t meant as a political tract. ‘I think that people who see the politics [in it] need to find an answer – and they want to give me a responsibility that I don’t have to have,’ she says. ‘I didn’t want it to become a movie with the pretensions to become this lesson of history, politics, sociology. I’m not a sociologist. I’m not a politician. I’m not a historian. I’m one person. If you start with one person, this one person is universal. If you want to make a history lesson, or politics, there is nothing less universal than these things. Tolstoy used to say, “If you want to talk to the world, write about your village”.