Monday, October 3, 2011


In case you're as late to the party as I am, let me give a brief book report on Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. Beginning in the late 70's and wrapping up in the early 90's, it is a memoir, written in a graphic novel format, of Satrapi's upbringing in Iran, as well as her travels abroad in Austria. Raised by modern parents in a very traditional and often fundamentalist Iran, Satrapi is often confused and angry and her story is filled with angst. Satrapi offers up a personal history that is wrapped up in a country's history, and it is a history that too many of us (myself included) are too unfamiliar with. 

As I said, the story is written in a graphic novel format, and to stunning effect. In a country where a few strains of revealed hair can mean a hefty fine (or worse), Satrapi's stark and simple black and white allows something as subtle as an arched eyebrow or curved lip to convey deep emotion. The phrasing of the storytelling is also sparse, which gives it the sense of being read through an interpreter. To be fair, the work has been translated into English, but a translation meticulously overseen by the author. The sense I get is that the tone and feel of the work in English is exactly what the author meant for it to be, blithe and funny and yet biting and fierce. 

This is one of those stories that needed telling, because it's one that so few of us (at least in America) ever hear. But it is also a story that needed telling simply because it aches and yearns and gropes and groans and laughs and cries like all great stories do. It tells of universal truths by speaking of specific ones. It is a wonder and a pleasure to read; an impressive and important work.

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