There are comics and then there are comics. Persepolis is the one and only non-fiction comic that I’ve ever read. It’s an interesting way of conveying her story.
The Complete Persepolis is Satrapi’s memoir of her childhood and adolescence. I’ve only read one of the two volumes that make up this book so far, but I do plan to read the other one as well. What makes it interesting is the way it’s told. It’s not just that this is a memoir in comic form, but it’s history through the eyes of a child. There are things that happen in every country that define the decade or whatever timeframe for that country, or define the country to the rest of the world. They happen all the time. We just don’t really see them that way when we’re kids.
Rather than attempt to rationalize the world around her, Satrapi uses this comic and story of her childhood to show us what it felt like to be a kid and going along with the changes in life, like all kids do. The book even opens with a letter from the author about why she felt compelled to write her memoir.
In 1951, Mohammed Mossadeq, then prime minister of Iran, nationalized the oil industry. In retaliation, Great Britain organized an embargo on all exports of oil from Iran. In 1953, the CIA, with the help of British intelligence, organized a coup against him. Mossadeq was overthrown and the Shah, who had earlier escaped from the country, returned to power. The Shah stayed on the throne until 1979, when he fled Iran to escape the Islamic revolution.
Since then, this old and great civilization has been discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism. As an Iranian who has lived more than half of my life in Iran, I know that this image is far from the truth. This is why writing Persepolis was so important to me. I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists. I also don’t want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten.
One can forgive but one should never forget.
Paris September 2002