“Persepolis: A Story of a Childhood”
a comic by Marjane Satrapi
I thought I’d put aside novels for the meantime to enjoy a funny and touching story by Marjane Satrapi called “Persepolis”. This autobiographical tale deals with the life of Marji during her childhood years at the time of the Islamic Revolution of Iran which won from the rule of the Shah and the Iran-Iraq war which succeeded it. What really hit me from this story was the fact that Marji, the main character, wanted a really cool story about her family to be proud of. As human beings, we want to tell our friends a grand story about ourselves to show everyone that we are relevant to society and to everyone’s lives – that we essentially have a status by having a great story to tell. I do have that tendency and I feel guilty for sometimes over-exaggerating the facts about me which I tell my friends. But here’s one fact that is true about me, I never drank alcohol until I was 25 but when I first drank, I got red rashes and itchy skin all over my body.
At times, we do tell these grand stories to protect ourselves – we know the usual “My dad was member of the secret police” or “My grandfather is the President” or “My Uncle killed over 9,000 people in one shot” stories. As kids, it’s more of a “Don’t mess with me” tactic when they tell such story. But we do find out that these grand stories can put someone into trouble as how we see Marji almost poke nails with one of her classmates who claimed to have a father who have killed many people. In a lot of cases, some people unconsciously know that our grand story could be either patriotism/nationalism or religion and we see them as instruments of our cause (for going to wars, protesting, etc.) or our beings (personality, etc.). Others who don’t really explain themselves in a grand story, based on my experience, would not care whether people have status or not and some would even abhor them since talking about yourself is to a certain degree committing pride and boastfulness. Well, that’s what grand stories are all about.
The struggle for a normal life is also the theme of this comic. It’s quite sad that so many things were banned in the early years of the revolution from Western music, to playing cards to chess sets. I’d understand the alcohol part since the government ruling are Muslim clerics who in the story ended up to control the entire Iranian society through the veil which Satrapi smartly introduces in the comic.
There were plenty of funny moments in the book. I’d like you guys to read it. The outspoken Marji, who also narrates the story, do give us tons of insights about the changes in Iran which totally gives us the distinction between what makes us free and what doesn’t.
Overall, I’d say the stories told by Marji gave me some laughs which came from the political jokes and just smartly laid out situations. The comic also gave me moments of grief since the revolution in Iran as well as the Iraq-Iran war were not the best moments in Iranian history. The plot is simple and all you need is a bit of open-mindedness with regards to the history of Iran.
I’m very glad to have written this reflection on the comic because I have been watching and listening to the news in Iran which is currently in chaos because of the election that took place in the country. Ahmadinejad and Mousavi were the two rivals in the event and many people were protesting because of the fraudulent results of the elections which was claimed to be won by Ahmadinejad. Satrapi was able to hold a document from an Iranian agency telling the real results of the election which Mousavi won fairly and Ahmadinejad lost greatly. I do pray Iran can get out of this mess and that the truly elected president will be sitting in to represent their country.