January 4, 2009

The Complete Persepolis

Let me say first that I do not have much interest in biographies, history, or politics. Persepolis is basically all three of those things, and I loved it!

The author, Marjane Satrapi, tells her story of growing up in Iran and what it was like to be in the wars there. As a 10 year old at the time, she remembers the change from being very free in 1978 to having to wear the veil in 1979. She also tells of her time as a teenager in Austria, where her parents sent her to be away from the war, and for education free of the restrictions of Iranian rules. She also shows how many Iranians were behind closed doors, where the veils could come off, and people who were more liberal minded would hold parties and use forbidden things (music! games! make-up!), for which there was a strong black-market for. Basically, it challenges what the US-centric thinking is of what Iranians are like.

Because of my lack of interest in history and politics, I am probably not fully understanding some things... despite that, ye olde review word "compelling" applies to this novel. I read it in a few hours with barely a break, it just kept me wanting to see what would happen next. There was some humor injected into what was largely a horror story of war, plus the intriguing story of this brave woman who was taught to stand up for her freedom amidst oppression.

One of the things I am having a hard time grasping is that her parents seemed to prefer the life/freedoms they had under the Shah, and yet didn't seem to agree with the Shah either. My parents and siblings actually lived in Iran for a few years in the 60s (I wasn't born until '78), but I think that asking for information from them would only give the western view of events and not really help with the view the author is trying to convey.

The artwork is very simple black and white drawings, but the way facial expressions are used to mark the emotions is amazing (especially during the younger years).  The 1st and 2nd panels on the first page had me hooked with the impact of "this is me" and then "this is my class photo"... a group of girls nearly identical because they are hidden by their veils.

Anyway, I found Persepolis fascinating and highly recommend it.


Jenn said...

I'm so glad you had such a great experience with this work, Nic! It's so incredible. I really love what you wrote about the facial expressions -- so true! It's just amazing to me how much can be conveyed through such (seemingly) simple drawings, and how the black and white art does so much to accentuate the story. Just imagine this work without those drawings ... as wonderful as the accompanying words are, the entire story would be lost and changed. That is the heart of the graphic novel experience, I think -- you can't take one without the other :)

Olga said...

Sounds like it's right up my alley--I love history and politics, particularly twentieth century. This is on my challenge list as well. I can't wait to read it.

Kailana said...

I loved these books when I read them a couple years ago! She really does a great job. :)

Beth F said...

I have a young friend who keeps telling me to read this; I'm not sure where my hesitation comes from; perhaps it's that I don't know much about Iranian politics.

Your review has swayed me, and I think I'll add this to my list. Coincidentally, this is the book that my county has picked for its group read this winter, so the books are widely available.

Beth F said...

Oh, I meant to ask if anyone has both read the books and seen the movie. How do they compare?

thechocoholic said...

I just watched the movie (when I find something I like a lot, I tend to dive in completely!).
Like most book to movie conversions, the movie is missing a lot of things. Many things are entirely cut out, some things are out of order. But, I will say from the extras on the DVD, it seems that Satrapi had almost total control of the project, so at least the decisions were her own.
The artwork as animation was interesting... how the black and white was used (images of war were mostly shadows), and using a bit of a scene to transfer to a new scene... like the book, it was for some reason more effective at the beginning/during her childhood.
Overall it's probably worth watching, but the book version has more to it and more impact.

- Nichole