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Review of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Witnessing a revolution can be quite traumatic. In the graphic memoir Persepolis, The story of a childhood—a Bildungsroman—Marjane, a little girl grows up in Iran in the midst of the Islamic revolution. The dichotomy of thoughts reflected on the pages in stark black and white makes it painfully poignant.
Marjane begins her early childhood with visions of God and hopes of becoming the next prophet. In the midst of the religious revolution, Marji rejects God and banishes her “unshakeable faith” from the landscape of her mind. The ten- year-old has already read Marx and the history of Iran ( atleast in comic books) and sees the revolution clearly in the historical context.
Her games are not with sissy toys—though her parents don’t let her accompany them to demonstrations—she asserts her grownup-ness in the form of agitations in the garden, dressed up as Che Guevara. The grimness of the situation outside is quite graphically revealed in the shape of her mouth. The smiley curve is not visible on the young face instead it is a downward twist of the mouth—a painful glumness that runs through the entire book often spilling into tears. Her parents Eby and Taji have their hands full, trying to instil the right ideas into their child. But the adults had first demonstrated against the Shah during the revolution and then against the Islamic regime itself, which could confound any child. The outer conflicts merge with the inner conflicts—confusing Marji in the process.
She thinks she should hurt a schoolmate Ramin whose father was with the secret police of the Shah. So armed with brass knuckles, she and her friends go to attack Ramin but her mother intervenes. When the guardians of the revolution confront Marji for not wearing her scarf properly she lies to save herself and then one lie leads to another and she cannot help lying to her mother. Is it wrong or right to lie in the times of war is morally unclear and here the government itself officially lies—everyone seems to lie with impunity.
The scenes of empty supermarkets, the death of friends, the ‘veiled’ classrooms make for the mundane but overwhelming details of the war. Marji’s hidden “western” habits—wearing nailpolish or listening to music and her outspokenness only add to the problems of her living in Iran and her parents are forced to send her away to Austria. ( Persepolis, the animated film won the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.)


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