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Persepolis Box Set Paperback – Box set, October 25, 2005
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About the Author
Marjane Satrapi was born in Rasht, Iran. She now lives in Paris, where she is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers throughout the world, including the New Yorker and the New York Times. She is the author of Persepolis, Persepolis 2, Embroideries, Chicken with Plums, and several children's books. She cowrote and codirected the animated feature film version of Persepolis, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
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I'll admit that the latter half of the book, with Marjane grown up, doesn't quite have the same fiery pop as the half surrounding her younger self, a bold pipsqueak learning the realities of war. But I'll forgive Satrapi for the wonderful illustrations, and for taking the opportunity to spend a page of setup for a genital joke. It's a good book that can be heartbreaking and bawdy at the same time.
The overall length looks small, but it contains all of the stories from Satrapi's autobiographical coming-of-age series published in France. Fans should know that the overall size of the book itself is smaller than I thought--I own the original French-language edition, which practically towers over this one. I would say this is smaller than an average graphic novel book, but Much bigger than a manga volume, but that's why reading glasses were made!
So, there you have it. This floored my 11 year niece and my 76 year old mother. It's brilliant and timeless.
We are shown life through Marjane's eyes from her days in elementary school (even then she is a bit of a rebel, unwilling to wear the burka in the desert, though she is not alone here). Growing up in a society where social class and gender matter more than anything else, she feels genuine grief for her maid, who is doomed never to marry the neighbour she loves. Fortunate enough to evade the bullets through serendipity before the Shah's overthrow, she is forced to mature rapidly and learns that she must not blame children for the atrocities of their parents. Perhaps the most profound moral of her childhood tribulations is the price of freedom and the tragedy for those left behind, hoping, worrying and fearing for the fate of their loved ones who were imprisoned for being enemies of the state. Everyone living in the democracy must be grateful they are not suffering the fate of North Koreans.
Always, regrettably, the dark puppet-masters are omnipresent. Willing to aid despots in their quest for power, the common people are often forgotten and seen as expendable. With no means to resist armed police (or escape from a barricaded cinema), their insurrections are often easy to quell. Recurrent themes are the deadly chains of hatred, vengeance and bitter grief. Forgiveness is a laudable goal, and though Gandhi succeeded in his endeavours, one is always left wondering whether the cost in human lives was worthwhile. Was there a better way? Could the soldiers have been convinced or coerced to turn against their own oppressive regime if necessary?
Although told from Majane's perspective, the stories of her uncles, friends and extended families also receive their fair share of space. Each chapter of the first half reveals more of the history and culture of Iran in the 70s and 80s. No detail is omitted and the harsh realities of a country in the throes of anarchy are laid bare for readers to vicariously experience.
Her secondary education in Vienna enabled her to learn more about the world beyond Iran's narrow and artificial borders. Like Anne Frank's diary, as Marjane matures, so too does her writing style and vocabulary. Despite being a comic book, the latter half is full of text and can be quite vexing to slog through. The most poignant and tragic moment comes when Marjane rejects her homeland and chooses freedom over a patriarchal dictatorship.