Monday 27 June 2016

Satrapi, Marjane "Persepolis. The Story of a Childhood" and "Persepolis. The Story of a Return"

Satrapi, Marjane "Persepolis. The Story of a Childhood" (French: Persepolis) - 2000 
Satrapi, Marjane "Persepolis. The Story of a Return" (French: Persepolis. Vol. 2) - 2000 

This is another book from the "Our Shared Shelf" group on Goodreads. A good one this time.

I would have never thought I'd enjoy a graphical novel this much. This is not just another comic strip, it's a memoir, a historical novel. This is the story of a young child growing up in wartime. You can compare the girl to Anne Frank or Zlata Filipović who both wrote their diaries as children and told the world about the atrocities that happened in their countries.

Marjane Satrapi is just a child like this, she grows up in Iran and has to see how her world is shattered, how everything she knew before gets either killed or destroyed. She learns how to live with danger, how to hide her thoughts from people around her, sometimes even her best friends. Her parents send her to Austria where she has to face different troubles without the help of an adult.

In the second book, she returns to Iran, hoping to find a better life there again but is once again thrown into upheaval and sadness. I don't want to tell you all too much but you can read it anywhere, she lives in France in the meantime.

The beauty of the book is not the alone the stories the author is telling us, it's also the way she tells them, she puts history in simple drawings, she doesn't add any embellishments, she shows it how it is/was. And she explains backgrounds and tries to make us understand how it really was.

Great books.  I borrowed them from the library but I might buy them myself and lend them to any friend who is interested. Because if we don't learn from this kind of history, we'll never learn.

While researching for more background - yes, I always do that, as well, I came upon this very interesting video about 100 years of Iranian history, explained in 11 women's hairstyles. Watch it, it's very impressing.

Some comments from the book club discussion:
  • It was a horrifying but very gripping way to tell about the growing up in a war zone and coming to Europe after it.
  • I think I am wiser again for have read it and the discussion was very interesting.
  • I hope the graphic novel will be widely translated, it won prices in Finland and I recognised everything the artist told about surviving and healing from a death scare.
  • The complete Persepolis is a wonderful and moving book. I especially enjoyed the drawings that captured the changes of a young girl as she became an adolescent and emerged as a young woman. Imagine growing up while your home is immersed in such upheaval. I developed a fondness and admiration for Marji as I read. What stays with me is the sense of a rich, vibrant , beautiful culture smothering under the veils of an oppressive religious regime. So powerful.
We discussed this in our international online book club in October 2021.

From the back covers:

"Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah's regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran's last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane's child's-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love."


"In Persepolis, heralded by the Los Angeles Times as 'one of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day,' Marjane Satrapi dazzled us with her heartrending memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Here is the continuation of her fascinating story. In 1984, Marjane flees fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in Vienna. Once there, she faces the trials of adolescence far from her friends and family, and while she soon carves out a place for herself among a group of fellow outsiders, she continues to struggle for a sense of belonging.
Finding that she misses her home more than she can stand, Marjane returns to Iran after graduation. Her difficult homecoming forces her to confront the changes both she and her country have undergone in her absence and her shame at what she perceives as her failure in Austria. Marjane allows her past to weigh heavily on her until she finds some like-minded friends, falls in love, and begins studying art at a university. However, the repression and state-sanctioned chauvinism eventually lead her to question whether she can have a future in Iran.

As funny and poignant as its predecessor, Persepolis 2 is another clear-eyed and searing condemnation of the human cost of fundamentalism. In its depiction of the struggles of growing up - here compounded by Marjane’s status as an outsider both abroad and at home - it is raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating."


  1. Persepolis 1 was my first graphic novel. I also thought it was great. And I believe she started or at least added to a trend. Great review. I must read #2.

    1. I am glad you liked it so much, as well. The second one is just as good but, of course, she gets older and makes mistakes of herself. It still also gives you a good overview over life in Iran at the time.

      Have a good day,