Monday, May 23, 2005


This introduction to Marjane Satrapi's explanation for writing her graphic novel, Persepolis starts with this assumption: Chances are that if you are an American you know very little about the 1979 Iranian Revolution. They got me there... even given that I, as myself and perhaps as an American, know very little about every other thing under the sun (dilettante! the accusatory cry!). I think we may have skimmed over the topic in some international-ly labelled class in college but that's about it. But despite war and censorship, there has been a great amount of great work from Iranian artists on all fronts – film, literature, music, visual. I am at least just scratching the surface.

Graphic novels, by their nature, can combine a lot of elements and genres into a powerful punch of a piece. Satrapi, herself, comments that writing one resembles working on a movie. In that respect, it's what you might call 'easy reading' (pictures!) on that impossible thing called Life; the reading/looking goes relatively quickly but remains simultaneously enjoyable and deep and affecting. Persepolis tells the story of Satrapi's childhood, growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution and a war with Iraq. You know it's going to be good by the end of the first page, where little girls are playing and fussing with their newly acquired veils -- "Ooh, I'm the monster of darkness!" My favorite interchanges are between Marjane and God; once they have a bit of a tiff and God tries to lighten things up mumbling, "The weather's going to be nice tomorrow." Hilarious when you see it, ok?

Persepolis has even become a standard text at West Point, where she gave a lecture recently. I'm in the middle of Persepolis 2 which follows Marjane to Austria for boarding school and adolescent years and finding it a tiny bit less enjoyable because c'mon, Cute little girl vs Teenage Angst? Still, undeniably great.

You can see some excerpts from the first one here.
Interviews with Satrapi from Powells and bookslut.

I've also started Strange Times, My Dear, an anthology of short stories, excerpts, and poems by over fifty writers, put together by PEN. More when I'm further in. But in the meantimes, the Strand has it about half the list price.

1 comment:

Mosh said...

Three things:
[1] Hm, I'm impressed that West Point (by which you mean the military academy, surely!) students read this and the rest of the US doesn't.
[2] Reading Lolita in Tehran begins with a striking description of the metamorphosis a female professor sees in her university over the course of the 1979 Revolution. I lent it to someone this summer and never got it back, alas...
[3] Another perspective we rarely hear (at least in literature that makes it to the US) is the Palestinians who lived in/near Jerusalem before the 1950's. Why is that? There's a book I'll mail you, a memoir by Ghada Karmi who was a young child there and evacuated to Jordan with her family after the Zionist movement began.