Biography

Satrapi was born in Rasht and grew up in Tehran in a middle-class Iranian family.

Her parents were both politically active and supported Marxist causes against the monarchy of the last Shah. When the Iranian Revolution finally took place, they were dismayed and intimidated by the Muslim fundamentalists who took power.

Born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran, Satrapi grew up in Iran’s capital, Tehran. She was an only child of secular, Marxist parents. Iran’s Islamic Revolution against the shah, the country’s monarch, took place in 1979, the year Satrapi turned ten, and her child’s-eye view of the changes in her country later became a focus of her first book.

Her parents, who were against the regime of the shah, happily joined in the first protests that helped depose him, but the religious rule that followed turned out to be worse for them. An uncle of Satrapi’s was imprisoned by the shah’s regime, then executed by revolutionaries. Her mother, who was not religious, eventually felt compelled to wear Islamic garb to avoid attracting the attention of the religious police.

 

 

Marjaane Satrapi – Biography

At 18, she moved back to Tehran, where she attended college and struggled to adjust to living behind a veil and under the watch of the religious police, which would sometimes raid and break up the parties where she and her friends would wear makeup and western clothes.

After college, she moved to France, where she studied art in Strasbourg, then moved to Paris. Some of her friends there, who were part of a prominent artist’s studio called the Atelier des Vosges, introduced her to graphic novelists, starting with Art Spiegelman, whose graphic novel Maus told the story of the Holocaust through the lives of a few Jewish survivors

She realized she could tell stories and make serious points the same way. “Images are a way of writing,” she wrote on the Pantheon website. “When you have the talent to be able to write and to draw it seems a shame to choose one. I think it’s better to do both.” Graphic novels had some of the advantages of filmmaking as a way to tell stories, but without needing sponsors or actors, she added.

 

Introduction

1. According to the introduction, what stereotypical image is Satrapi trying to dispel?

2. The author indicates two motives for writing Persepolis. What are they?

Persopolis (Overview)

Satrapi created a book of black-and-white comic strips about living in Tehran from ages six to 14. The book, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (named after a part of Iran known for its ruins) tells the story of her growing up, while also showing the Islamic Revolution and its effects on Iranians. Toward the end of the book, war breaks out between Iran and Iraq, and her mother puts tape on the windows of the family home, anticipating correctly that Iraqi bombs will fall nearby.

The book also included moments of humor. “Tales of torture and war are offset by lighter scenes, like the 13-year-old Marjane trying to convince the morals police that her Michael Jackson button is really a button of Malcolm X, ‘the leader of black Muslims in America,'” wrote Tara Bahrampour in the New York Times. Iranians, Satrapi explained, are used to using humor to stave off despair.

Edward Nawotka, writing in People, called Persepolis “one of the quirkiest, most entertaining memoirs in recent years.” Dave Welch of Powells.com said it “expressed in deceptively simple black-and-white drawings the broken heart and crushed hope of a people.” One slightly dissenting comment came from Joy Press, writing in the Village Voice, who found Satrapi’s youthful, innocent voice powerful but complained that the book did not reach the emotional depth of Maus and that its summaries of Iranian history were cute but not insightful. “Satrapi keeps us at arm’s length, so that we never feel fully involved in this girl’s intellectual and moral transformation,” Press wrote.

 

Persopolis – Part II (Overview)

The sequel, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, was published in the United States in 2004. Nawotka of People declared it “the most original

The veil – the change in life

Mother’s protest image in media – proud moment gone awry

“I was born with religion” (6) – what does the image mean? What is Satraapi trying to say here with the image? Does she mean that we are born tabula rasa and religion is imposed upon us by society? Or is she implying something else?

The desire to become “a prophet” – Late night conversations with God

 

 

The Persopolis- The Bicycle

 

The bicycle implies revolution, as she learns about revolutionaries like Che Guevara.

“For a revolution to succeed, the entire population must support it” (16)

How do you explain her reasoning? How do her values and beliefs shape her character?

Rex Cinema Fire

Rex Cinema Fire

August 19, 1987 – Rex Cinema was set ablaze with fire and at least 470 individuals were killed.

There is speculation over the actual number of casualties incurred during the fire. Some of the numbers cited by sources include 377, 410,430, 422, and over 800.A 1980 Amnesty-International report states that there were 438 victims, including individuals who were tried and wrongfully executed after the fire itself

Confusion was apparent as no one took responsibility for the fire. The ruling government of Iran reported that Islamic militants set the fire, while the anti-Shah protesters blamed the intelligence service of the nation, SAVAK for setting the fire.

How does Satrapi represent death in the rex cinema fire? Think about the ways in which violence is represented in the chapters we read thus far?

The Rex Cinema burning – the responsibility of the shah (actual event) – what can we learn from this event? What other references can we draw from this event? The power of cinema/propaganda – audiences were seeing a controversial film called The Deers.

 

The Persopolis – The Water Cell

Glimpse into Iran’s political past

Marji’s political ties with her great-grandfather, father of Reza Shah who was a low-ranking official who worked with the British to overthrow the Qajar empire.

Under the empire of the Shah, her family lost everything but her grandfather, who was ultimately caught as a communist, was appointed prime minister because he was western-educated – it was his punishment that was reflective in the title of the chapter.

How do you read Marji’s reading of the Shah?

 

Persopolis

Times of torture of the Shahs – Reza’s son was much worse

Disappearance/Absence of Marjaane’s grandfather?

 

The Persopolis – The Letters

Classism – Mehri (the maid)’s a love affair with the neighbor’s son

Social class

Kurdish Author – Ashraf Darvishian

Father – “their love was impossible”

Black Friday (1978) – the death of many protestors – how is the image of death portrayed in the graphic novel?

 

The Persopolis – The Party

The aftermath of massacres after Black Friday

Sees hypocrisy that people who were at one time supporting the shah are touting pro-revolution slogans

Shah’s secret service (Savak) who is unapologetic about killing communists

Marjane learns about tolerance/intolerance

The Persopolis – The heroes

3000 political prisoners are released (1978)

“Bad people are dangerous but forgiving them is too. Don’t worry there is justice on earth” (52)

Marji’s understanding of heroism – why is her father not a hero or a revolutionary?

The idea of shame

Marji’s central conflict in the chapter – what is justice? Injustice?

 

The Persopolis -Moscow

Introduction of Anoosh – a communist revolutionary and a “hero”

Anoosh versus Freydoon – believer of ideals of justice and democracy

Escapes to USSR –becomes a Russian Marxist-Leninist scholar and marries a Russian woman

Russians versus Iranians

The idea of “family memory” – 64 – telling and retelling of storytelling

The Persepolis – The Sheep

Discussion with Marji’s father – illiteracy of the Iranian population and as a result, they are unaware of Marxist ideologies which can, according to him, unite them – nationalism or religious ethic would work. – Do you agree with his observation? Why or why not?

1979 – Khomeini comes into power and Marji’s life has changed forever. Many people escape to Europe and other countries

Anoosh argues that it’s just a period of “transition” – many communists are executed including Anoosh on the charge of being a Russian spy (70) – loss of family and friends – the period of transition takes a sinister turn

Marji’s home bombed (71) – the start of the Iran-Iraq war

 

The Persepolis – The Trip

Fundamentalist takeover of the American embassy – the inability for Marji to migrate to the US

Universities closed for 2 years – the need to make textbooks more Islamic

The rise of the veil by the fundamentalists – forbiddance of attraction between opposite sexes

Trip to Europe – the war had been going for three months – the need to shield the child from the violence – very unlike Lenny who was exposed to the violence outright because of her connections with Ayah and so on.

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