Updated on May 13, 2016
15. ‘Persepolis’ (1 and 2) by Marjane Satrapi
I read both volumes of Persepolis and then watched the movie in one weekend, and it was the best. I highly recommend not just reading this story but binging on it.
Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical series of graphic novels. The first volume is based on her childhood in Iran and what happened to her and her family after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The second follows her life after leaving Iran as a teenager and going to live in Austria.
These books provide an amazing insight into the life of Marji, an often headstrong young girl. Satrapi touches on her relationship with God, her political efforts as a child and her ability to form fast and firm relationships with members of her extended family. Marji comes across as funny and intelligent and stubborn, especially when, following the increasingly oppressive policies of the Islamic regime, she eloquently calls out her teachers for spreading misinformation and double standards.
War features prominently in both books – in the first because she is living through it, and in the second because people abroad come to identify by her experiences of it. It’s particularly fascinating to see the familiar aspects of young life set against a totally alien backdrop. For example, Marji releases her frustrations about being forced to wear a veil by rocking out to punk music; she goes to parties with her friends, but one of them dies running along the rooftops to escape a Guardians of the Revolution raid; she marries her boyfriend because they can’t live together unless they are spouses.
The art style is simple but very powerful. The books are black and white throughout, but Satrapi uses these two shades to maximum effect, particularly when showing shadows and silhouettes. She mixes reality and fantasy beautifully, and the story is page-turning and moving all the way through. She doesn’t shy away from expressing the lowest points of Marji’s life, and she creates connections between the reader and her characters very quickly. I just, simply, adored it.
Have you read these books or seen the film? I’d love to know your thoughts!