Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis

March 2021

“The regime had understood that one person leaving her house asking herself: Are my trousers long enough? Is my veil in place? Can my make-up be seen? Are they going to whip me?

No longer asks herself: Where is my freedom of thought? Where is my freedom of speech? My life, is it livable? What’s going on in the political prisons?”

“In every religion, you find the same extremists.”

The title takes after the capital of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, but it is an autobiography presented as a graphic novel written and drawn by the author! The two volumes of Persepolis chronicles the life of Marjane Satrapi growing up in Tehran witnessing the downfall of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution, living through the Iran-Iraq War, her high school years in Vienna, and her university life back in Tehran under the Islamic regime.

Persepolis is a memoir, a historical record, a political statement, but also an extraordinarily creative reading experience. I had not realized that comics could be this powerful! It is an honest account of a life and a nation, and I admire how it sends out a strong message of how crucial it is to educate oneself to attain freedom, especially the freedom of the mind.

She expounds these thoughts in a later interview with Emma Watson, “I have lived in a dictatorship. There was a ban on everything! Was I less free in my mind? No, I wasn’t. Did I become a stupid person? No, I didn’t. Because no matter how much they looked at me, they could not get into my mind. That belongs to me. And that is under my control if I decide it is. And I can only decide that if I train it. If you don’t use it, it shrinks, and if you use it, it grows. So it is up to us.”

_ _ _

P.S. In Volume I, published in 2000, we see a very young Satrapi wishing to be an educated and liberated woman like Marie Curie; and in Volume II, she promises to make her ancestors proud.

Remarkably enough, her 2007 animated movie adaptation of Persepolis premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Award.

In 2019 she directed the biopic “Radioactive” starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Curie.

Watching both films over the weekend turned out to be yet another excellent toast to Women’s Month!

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