12 January 2005 by Published in: entertainment 1 comment

Persepolis had been on my Amazon wishlist for some time now. I was interested in it because it had been rated a good read by people who read more comics than I do, and should know, and because it was by a woman (still a rarity in the comics world, it seems to me) and because learning more about Iran during the time of the author’s childhood (coincidentally the time of my own childhood) was something I was interested in. And now for the fawning : Persepolis is probably the best comic I’ve read in the last two years, which means it bests some work by one of my personal author heroes, Neil Gaiman, whose very respectable Endless Nights hardcover collection of Sandman stories I read within the last year. Persepolis satisfied me in all respects. The artwork was interesting, compelling and direct. I particularly enjoyed the way she used traditional eastern forms like the elephant riding prince and a magic carpet ride to illustrate the fantastical nature of a child’s imagination. The story was worth telling. The characters were true people, given to the gamut of reactions and emotions that real people are given to, and portrayed unflinchingly by Satrapi’s sure hand. The situations described are Kafkaesque and yet not so alien that a reader who has never been to Iran and has never lived through a war on their territory or a dictatorship would fail to understand the horror-tinged irony. The emotional honesty of the narration took me from fear to laughter to sadness and back again. In terms of learning what really happened in Iran the book is illustrative but remains anecdotal. It remains difficult to grasp living in a land, for example, whose borders are closed, a topic Satrapi mentions only in passing, as the background necessary to understand a personal story of estrangement. Indeed, if the book suffers from anything it’s from a kind of compression that slights the subject matter. While the drawings do help to augment the words, there are entire years here that take place on a couple of pages. Red shirts abound. People make appearances for the sole purposes of being the next set of bodies, like the Baba-Levy’s, Jewish neighbors who are mentioned for the first time two pages before they are bombed out of existence. Still, taken in the context of a child’s memory, the pacing and the story work. Juxtapositions such as her first pre-teen party with the an image of the boys sent to die in war with keys to paradise around their necks are extremely effective. Childhood happens – with its excitements and disappointments – whether your land is peaceful or war-torn, authoritarian and repressive or open and democratic. This is the basic truth of the tale, and I find it a truth concordant with my own experience.

I cannot recommend Persepolis highly enough. Thank you to my Sekrit Santa, who gave it to me for Christmas this year.

Unrelated note: I’m testing a new piece of software with this post. If it goes well, I will provide more details on that later.

Currently listening to: Strength, Courage, & Wisdom from the album “Acoustic Soul” by India Arie


Thu 13th Jan 2005 at 11:47 pm

I enjoyed Persepolis too. I also enjoyed Persepolis 2, which is a harsher and harder read (as befits the tale of an adolescence and young adulthood instead of a childhood). If the sense of Iran interested you, you might also try Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I read just before Persepolis. After these three books in a row, I’m starting on Jhumpa Lahiri next because I just can’t get enough.

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