Persepolis is the true story of Marjane Satrapi. This impassioned graphic novel, that was originally published in 2000 and later republished by VINTAGE in 2008, details what it was like – from Satrapi’s personal experience – to grow up during and after the Iraq-Iran war. We see Satrapi’s transformation from a child into a young woman. We see her move to Austria, where her parents sent her for her own protection. We see monstrosities that no child should have to see.
Art is obviously a fundamental feature in a graphic novel. The art style of Persepolis is simplistically monochrome. The majority of Satrapi’s graphic novel comes from the point of view of a child or teenager, as is reflected in her artwork; The visuals aren’t overly complicated – it’s believable a child could have drawn them. Yet, they are sophisticated, clever, and well-thought out. The writing and the art are symbiotic of one another, neither taking lead to dominate the other.
I don’t know about you, but I often get confused by who’s who – and this might be something you’re weary on when purchasing a graphic novel, especially one in black and white. Satrapi’s illustrations, however, are distinctive and individual. Each character stands out, making it easy to pick apart who is who. Not to mention, the characters feel real, because, of course, they are real, which arguably helped create strong characterisation and is a lesson any writer should take to heart. Even if you are not writing memoir, or something even slightly based upon a true story, a great way to create strong characters is to base them upon real people – whether they be people you know, historical figures, or anything in-between.
Satrapi, imaginably, aimed to educate people on the Iraq-Iran war; an aim which was achieved in a confidently engaging way. The majority of people blank out at reading blocks of analytical, detailed text – even those of us who are fascinated with learning about history. Persepolis, however, proves education does not have to be boring, but beautiful. Insightful. Heart-wrenching. Additionally, it being from the perspective of a child, makes it easily understandable and somewhat relatable. Even though we did not go through the same experiences, we all know what it is like to be an overwhelmed child, confused by your surroundings. Thus, even if you previously knew nothing about the Iran-Iraq war (like myself), Persepolis is easy to understand and is a great gateway into broadening your knowledge.
Satrapi’s work is enlightening. If you find yourself reading exclusively white, male authors, expand your horizon’s and give Satrapi’s Persepolis a read. Besides – Persepolis is banned in Satrapi’s homeland of Iran, which is even more reason to read it, if you ask me.
By Isabel Tyldesley