Persepolis

Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi
Pantheon

Government is evil. Just purely terrible and useless. The mandating of our lives by an arbitrary set of rules that often defies logic is maddening. Take for instance American’s ability to add more government on top of the civil and federal government they already have in the practice of Home Owner’s Associations. Suddenly you are beholden to these bizarre laws that you must follow at the behest of some company. The interest of the community are safe guarded by dues that are paid quarterly. And if you do not uphold their weird rules, they have the power to levy fines against you. It is quite simply, madness.

When I am brought into Marjane Satrapi’s Iran, I am reminded of the cruelty of ideologies. We act murderously to each other on levels that are irrational to human existence, that the inner conflict and inner turmoil we face is maddening. Satrapi delves deep into this madness in her fantastic graphic novel Persepolis. Torn by a love and devotion to her family and country and the need to be a free human spirit, this is the classic modern story. The autobiographical world in which she exists in here, is dark adnd bleak and black. Her art is work is stark and offers no contrast against the inner anxiety that has a great deal going on.

In the first collection we walk around Satrapi’s childhood and find a fervently passionate child in love with the world and at the same time frightened by it. Satrapi has a string of experiences filled with home invasions, bombings and the death of loved ones in which she must navigate through and understand. As she grows older, the martyrdom of her family that has suffered death under tyranny becomes a driving force for Satrapi’s own independence. But at the same time the strict laws that are enforced more and more as the narrative moves causes conflict and doubt.

As the war progresses and the regime presses down more on the people Satrapi is sent to Europe to study. In her early teens she is now separated from her family and her home and while she is now more free to be herself and explore the world, she is still handicapped by her experiences. The beautiful and sad tale shows her developing from a young girl into a young woman, and the passion to fight continues. Her experiences unfolds into a confrontation with her landlord, accusing her of stealing so Satrapi, feeling dejected by her foreign home, leaves. She spends her time on the street and does not reemerge for several months. It is here she decides she will try to return to the only place she has known as home, Iran.

The finally push of the story Satrapi is trying to adjust to a war torn Iran. She feels more and more like a foreigner in her own home, the rebellious acts being carried out by her peers strange and odd to her. The government has also enacted new moral codes and the stress and pressure of these rules becomes the obsession of self definition. Again Satrapi is forced to choose a love for her country, her family and her culture, or the need for self identity, expression, sexuality and in a sense a real existence.

Persepolis is a story of the human spirit. We find an individual trying desperately to find an identity in a world that wants to enforce their own upon her. We find, in desperation decisions are made from panic and fear, and that the balancing act between fight and flight is precarious. Satrapi shows us the anxiety that we all face, no matter the culture, no mater the government in which we held up by. We are surrounded by people who define us in their vision of the world, extrapolating their prejudices and using these as a guide and compass. We must provail however. Instead we must rally ourselves and find out who we truly are, despite the rules.

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