Archive for Persepolis

Iran So Far Away

I’ve been avoiding opening my big mouth about the recent contested Iranian election — I know so little about the situation over there, and I don’t want to be just another loudmouthed American shouter who thinks he’s an expert just because he’s read some blogs. I know there are a lot of folks out there who think Twittering about the Iranian election is their contribution to Iranian freedom, which honestly strikes me as colossally self-inflating: “I twittered about the election and re-colored my blog green in solidarity! That makes me a freedom-fighter even though I’m in no danger of being shot by Iranian soldiers!” Ya get right down to it, there ain’t a single thing any Americans can do to influence this, no matter how much we might wish we could — it’s ultimately all down to the Iranian people.

Oh, okay, I’ve got two observations about the Iranian election.

  • First, you remember Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the opposition candidate who officially lost the election but probably got it stolen from him, right? Not many people seem to realize that he was actually a member of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s government right after the revolution. So, yeah, almost certainly a better guy than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but no pure driven angel either.
  • Second, sorry to say it, but Ahmadinejad is a hard word to say. You think if we can trick him into saying his name backwards, he’ll disappear into the Fifth Dimension for 90 days?

Okay, seriously, some of y’all may remember last year when I reviewed Marjane Satrapi’s brilliant graphic novel “Persepolis” — Satrapi was in the news just a few days ago after presenting a document she thinks proves the election was fraudulent.

“Ahmadinejad received only 12 percent of the vote, not 65 percent,” said Satrapi, according to Adnkronos. She and Makhmalbaf presented the document, which they claimed came directly from the Iranian electoral commission, to the Green Party MPs in the European parliament.

Satrapi and Makhmalbaf believe that the democratic process in Iran was derailed when election results were ignored and replaced with fraudulent results naming Ahmadinejad as the winner with more than 65 percent of the vote.

Satrapi, who was born in Iran to Marxist parents, discussed her personal and family histories in the country in “Persepolis” and has gone on to compose two more graphic novels “Embroideries” and “Chicken with Plums,” the latter of which she and director Vincent Paronnaud are seeking to adapt into a live-action film.

Also, let me throw in one more plug for “Persepolis” — there’s obviously no info about this most recent election, but Satrapi’s graphic novel is definitely a great way to learn more about the Iranian people and see some of the ways that the last three decades of history have influenced them and their culture. I visited some of the local bookstores this weekend, and they look like they stocked up with a lot of extra copies of “Persepolis” — I reckon they think folks might be interested in an accessible and entertaining introduction to the Iranian people. Go out and pick up a copy today.

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Iran from the Inside



If you haven’t heard the news yet, “Persepolis” was nominated for an Academy Award yesterday for Best Animated Feature Film, so this seems like a pretty good time to review the graphic novel that the movie is based on.

“Persepolis” is a story written by Marjane Satrapi about her youth in Iran during the post-revolution era. She writes about the weird fundamentalism of life there, about having to learn the right things to wear to keep from angering the authorities, about buying punk rock on the black market, about meeting your heroic uncle for the first time and later hearing that he’s been executed unjustly as a spy. She also writes about her parents sending her to high school in Austria to get her away from the fundamentalists, about living her life alone in a strange country, and about later returning to her home country.

This is a really excellent book, very engrossing and fascinating. Satrapi tells so many interesting stories, sometimes as simple throwaway anecdotes — her friend from school who gets killed by a missile during the Iran-Iraq War, another friend who’s been crippled by the war, her many roommates during her stay in Austria. Some of the most interesting moments come when you realize that Satrapi had been ostracized in Iran as a dangerously outspoken woman who reads books about politics and philosophy, and was later ostracized in Europe solely because she was an Iranian and “everyone knows those Iranians are crazy fundamentalists.”

Satrapi’s artwork is really wonderful, too. Like a lot of autobiographical comics, the book uses a deceptively cartoonish style — the artwork looks simple, but it’s great for showing emotion and building drama — and yes, for spotlighting funny stuff. There really is some funny stuff that goes on here — at the very least, the goofy surrealism of trying to live in an autocratic society that actually freaks out about the right way to wear a headscarf. Satrapi’s teenaged angst is also written about very humorously.

Verdict: A very big thumbs up. Iran is in the news a lot these days — apparentally, some folks think we should go bomb ’em a bit, maybe because we ain’t involved in enough pointless Middle Eastern wars on brown people yet — and I figure it sure won’t hurt you to learn a little bit about an unfamiliar culture. Plus, with the movie out, they’ve released the entire four-volume series in a single book, so it’s a lot more affordable. Go check it out.

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