Wednesday, June 17, 2009
With all that is going on in Iran right now following the country's recent controversial elections, many people are struggling to understand the historical background of these fast-changing current events. To that end, I thought it would be a good time to recommend a work that I've been a fan of for some time now: Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi.
Persepolis is an autobiographical account of an independent-minded Iranian girl (Satrapi) growing up at a time of great political unrest. But unlike most autobiographies, Persepolis is told in black-and-white comic form, which makes the story at once approachable and timeless. The book centers around Satrapi's life as part of a relatively well-educated and progressive Iranian family before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Not only does Satrapi give context for understanding what happened and how Iranian society transformed in the aftermath, but she also does a wonderful job of offering a unique and eye-opening view of what it was like being an inquisitive, punk-loving female in an often repressive, male-centric society. I actually had the pleasure of hearing Satrapi as part of a panel discussion with fellow graphic artist Chris Ware this past winter, and she was an incredible speaker—every bit as animated and full of life as her character in the books and film!
So far there have been four Persepolis books published in French; all four have been translated and compiled into one U.S. publication called The Complete Persepolis. It's a fast read, and I recommend it as an excellent addition to any bookshelf. Alternately, the book was adapted into a motion picture in 2007 (it won the Jury Prize at Cannes and was nominated for an Academy Award), so Netflixing it is certainly a worthwhile option! Although Persepolis may not delve into the most current goings-on in Iran, it will give audiences young and old a substantive background with which to begin further research into that country's recent past. &infin
Update: A new online version of Persepolis, which uses Satrapi's illustrations (with her permission), has been created to address the events of the recent election. It is called Persepolis 2.0.