A haunting tale narrated in a humorous narrative that mocks all authorities, Persepolis indeed is the work of a rebel. The novel commences from the perspective of a young girl living in tumultuous Iran, puzzled and enraged for she has to wear a veil according to the orders of the regime. Soon, we are acquainted with her background and discover that she is the daughter of radical Marxists and the great-granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor. This, is the author herself – Marjane Satrapi who in Persepolis explores the state of Iran during the 1980s and beyond – through the eyes of a young girl who grows up amidst the turmoil of Islamic Revolution.
When Satrapi is nine, the Shah is overthrown by the fundamentalist rebels who though intially welcomed – soon are on their way to establish an absolutist regime of Islamic extremists. The ones who were merely imprisoned by the Shah – often are executed by the new regime and when Marjane’s Uncle Anoosh meets the same fate – Marjane’s views change tremendously. Yet another moment when ideals about war, freedom and life are challenged when a young Marjane tries to console her friend Paradisse who has lost her father. ‘I wish he were alive and in jail rather than dead and a hero,’ says Paradisse. Volume 1 ends with the departure of Marjane to Vienna, away from her parents to lead a safer life. her father reminding her – ‘Don’t ever forget who you are.’
While Volume 2 is again saturated with the irony and caustic humour, it pains the reader how Marjane deviates from her goals in a foreign country and makes the reader anticipate a better, a happier end for her. What happens to Marjane and her family is probably the surface concern of the book but what it deals with in depth is the countless losses and deaths that accompany a state of unrest. Satrapi’s minimal and effective art brings out the foolishness and futility of everything around her very effectively and leaves you puzzled whether to weep or laugh. The writing is simple and splendid and there have been moments where she expresses too much, using too little of words. Although there were several moments of awakening, I was particularly moved my one that neatly showcases the strategy of the regime –
“The regime had understood that one person leaving her house while asking herself, ‘Are my trousers long enough? Is my veil in place? Can my make-up be seen? Are they going to whip me?’, no longer asks herself, ‘Where is my freedom of thought? Where is my freedom of speech? My life, is it livable? What’s going on in political prisons?’
Satrapi brings to life once again the life she has endured and lived during the revolutions and wars of Iran in which lakhs of lives were lost. An autobiographical two volume graphic novel, Persepolis is one of its kind and has sold over 1.5 Million copies worldwide and in the light of the recent protests Iran is witnessing, reading this book is highly recommended.