Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book #9: Iran

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The best and most moving stories often come from reality, and I was reminded of this as I read Persepolis. The author/illustrator was born in Iran, and this graphic novel is a memoir of her childhood during the reign of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution.

Satrapi was nine when the revolution came. Her parents were Marxists and had been campaigning for the ousting of the Shah for years. They hoped for a change towards their ideals, but watched as Iran became a religious state where wearing a veil was compulsory for women (one of my favourite panels shows school girls using their veils as skipping ropes, monster costumes and horse reins), possession of playing cards and videos could earn you seventy-five lashes and almost everyone knew someone who’d been executed.

It’s sobering stuff, but Satrapi depicts her story with such charm and humour that it’s no trial to read. Every page had me in thrall, and even though it’s split nicely into chapters and I had work to do, I kept reading. It’s scary to think how quickly an entire country can change, and you see it happening through Satrapi’s eyes. I think the fact that the story comes from a child/teenage point of view means that you get a better feeling for what life was like. Adults focus more on the overall ‘serious’ picture and forget the small details that create an experience (though I’m happy to be proven wrong :D).

I’d like to know more about the history of Iran, right back to myth. There’s so much history in the world, and at school you only get a small slice of it (usually from your own country). That small slice is, more often than not, pretty boring. What if you could pick and choose your history curriculum from all the histories of the world? And what if, like Satrapi’s philosophy books, you could get it in graphic novel form?

Yes, yes, I know it’s impractical. But soon the Internet will be All-Knowing and it will be possible.

When I got to the end of the book I flipped over the pages a few times to see if I’d missed one, but no, it was just the acknowledgements. I wanted more. I’m so glad there’s a sequel. Now I just have to find it...

What books set in Iran do you like?

(thanks http://sheldohm.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/persepolis-book-vs-movie/persepolis-book/ for the pic!)


  1. great review and great post. and i love the idea of being able to pick the part of history that you wish to study. it's so hard to take the subject seriously in school because it's always so skewed and so many important and "real" details are left out.

  2. thank you! Yeah, in NZ we do the Treaty of Waitangi (kinda the foundation document) every SINGLE year and not much else. You get really sick of it. Yes, it's important to know and understand the misunderstandings and repercussions but we never seem to get round to the other stuff. There were Land Wars and burning down flagpoles and things, but you don't really hear about it in school.


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