Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return - Marjane Satrapi

In the world of graphic novels, there are certain books that appear on my radar screen and then keep reappearing in different contexts. Generally this is a good sign that they're good books, and eventually I get around to reading them. Persepolis is one such book (or two such books, I guess I should say). They were originally published in four parts between 2000 and 2003 in France, and made their way to the States as two books. It's a collection of autobiographical stories, with the first book following Satrapi's childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The second book takes her to Austria, where she was sent to continue her education, and then eventually back to Iran.

There are some similiarities to David B.'s Epileptic in the way the panels look, stark black and white illustrations, some speech bubbles and some narrated text at the top. But for the most part it's less fantastic, with only a few dream-like scenes (particularly early on, when she speaks to God and wants to be a prophet when she grows up). The artwork is a clean, simple style and does a good job of portraying the story without distracting from it.

In her introduction, Satrapi writes that her intention is to show the real face of Iranians, separate from the "fundamentalism, fanatacism, and terrorism" which is usually associated with Iran. Having lived in Iran and experienced the oppressive regime with its sometimes arbitrary rules, she has also encountered many Iranians who died defending freedom or had to flee their homeland, and it is their story she wants to tell.

The book, like life, has both tragedy and comedy. In the middle of threats from the regime or bombs from Iraq, there is time for parties and laughter at the absurdity of it all. Satrapi is honest about her own faults, often admitting to experiences she is ashamed of, but also taking pride what she has accomplished.

It is a perspective on Iran that I hadn't seen before, and educational as well as engaging. The artwork isn't quite up to par with Spiegelman's Maus, the ultimate comic-book memoir, but Persepolis certainly belongs on the same shelf, and is a worthwhile read.

Fed to jonathan's brain | September 22, 2005 | Comments (0)


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