by: Aramide Olorunyomi
During our recent Arabian Nights conference, the MC-Germantown library has showcased many great works of Middle Eastern literature such as The Butterfly Mosque and Quiet Revolution. These books shared a sense of turmoil yet wonder and curiosity for the complex nature of Middle Eastern identity.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in Marjane Satrapies’ autobiographic graphic novel Persepolis. With its wonderfully surreal black and white animation, great attention to details, and a tone that is endearing whether it’s showcasing fear or joy, Persepolis succeeds as not only being a tale of the Iranian revolution of 1979 but also as being all round great coming of age tale.
The book mainly deals with Marjane coming to grips with the changes that are happening to her country following the Iranian revolution of 1979. Before the revolution, she was a child with wild eyed hope of becoming a prophet. But following the revolution she is forced to come with grips with a new more unpleasant reality, where every day more lives are lost in the name of the martyrdom in the Iranian Revolution. This reality is hard for any person live through yet alone a ten year old girl.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the book comes when Marjane meets her Uncle Anoosh. Annosh, a former revolutionary, showcases the lovely idealism that Marjane is invested in. In their short time together, Marjane and Anoosh develop a bond that is so deep that Anoosh himself says that she is the little girl that he always wanted to have. Unfortunately, the Iranian government arrests Anoosh and sentences him to execution. Following his execution, Marjane slips into sadness so deep that it causes her to not only curse the God she once had regular conversations with, but it also causes her to declare that moment the death of her childhood.
This is only one of the many poignant moments that makes Persepolis the remarkable novel that it is. It is not enough that it provides insight into an important event in world history; it also effectively captures the complex emotions of its witnesses. Marjane Satrapi balances moments of intense drama with moments of wit, entertaining the reader with vivid visuals and dialogue but also describing Iran’s rich history.
The story of Marjanes’ life is continued in the her sequel Persepolis 2, a book that is equally as marvelous as its predecessor, to those who enjoy the book it should also be known that there is a Persepolis film, written and directed by Marjane herself. Both books are available in the MC Germantown library.