Thursday, March 7, 2013

'Anyway, as long as there is oil in the Middle East we will never have peace' Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis 

If I hadn't had work the next day I would have easily been able to finish both books in one sitting. Unfortunately I actually had to pause, and spent work-days, outings with friends and family thinking about these books. 

The books are written by the fabulous Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian lady who happened to witness both the ousting of the Shah, and the revolution that lead to Iran becoming an Islamic Republic. To save her from the continued horrors her parents send her to Austria to study. Satrapi details her experiences as a child, as a teen in Austria, what happened when she decided to move back to Iran and eventually her acceptance and celebration of her identity and emancipation from guilt.

It is awesome.
By awesome I mean it is great.
Okay. I'm a fangirl now.

Just in case you don't know, Persepolis is a graphic novel. The art work is black and white in a straight laced comic strip form... y'know, with windows and such. The pictures are stark, but then so is the topic. 

She does a wonderful job at highlighting how cultural and national identity can become difficult issues for immigrants. Even those of us who have first generation immigrant parents pretty much spend our early lives trying to unite the many sides of our personalities, whilst also trying to withstand the pressure. I found that part of her narrative absolutely fantastic and poignant, it was so relevant to my own upbringing. The pressure she feels from her national and cultural identity is beautifully expressed, as it is not only the guilt of escaping a war that oppresses her but also the pressure of living in a country of luxury; she's been given a great opportunity... she needs to make something of herself.

I got hold of this version.
Both books in one!
Satrapi as a child is also brilliant and her experiences can, at times, be chilling. Her rebellious nature as a child is one that could not possibly survive when the new regime comes in. Satrapi uses foreshadowing throughout the novels which means that she is perfectly in control of the tension, fear and anxiety she's trying to make us feel. She throws them on the reader in much the same way a good novelist will. 

I borrowed this book from a cafe a few kilometres away. I was very impressed that this was openly available in the United Arab Emirates, but then again, the regime in Iran is very different to the politics in the UAE.

I have yet to watch the movie. It is on my to-watch list though and I will post a movie review very soon.

Why this comic is so excellent is that it is not preachy in its tone. I avoided it for a long time because I thought it was going to just end up being another 'Muslim-Bashing' piece of literature, but it isn't that. It isn't a criticism of religion, it is a criticism of fanatics of all sorts (racists, royalists, anarchists, communists, 'religionists' etc etc) masquerading behinds constructs that allows them to control others. It didn't seem didactic... just honest. 

So, what did I give it. I gave it 5 stars. Marjane Satrapi has a refreshing voice that I've not had the pleasure of reading before. It is a highly personal memoir with beautiful and stark art work. I recommend it. Greatly.

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