Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Pesepolis is a “graphic novel”, ie comic book style novel/memoir. It is actually more memoir than novel .While the basic story line, that of a young girl growing up in Iran during the revolution of the late 1970’s, is capable of being understood by a younger reader, there is much here that only an adult would comprehend. Ms Satrapi uses wit and irony to full advantage , often making wry comments with tongue-in-cheek humor that , unless you are fully grounded in a wide spectrum of literature, art, 20th century politics, and esp, the history of communism , you will never get her jokes. But don’t let that pre-requisite deter you from enjoying this book : it is a well –written, visually dramatic , easily accessible account of family, coming of age, and political history , all mixed together, that is entirely enjoyable to read.
What does the title mean ? This is a question I always taught my English students to ask themselves. After all, authors spend a fair amount of angst selecting just the one word or phrase that emphasizes whatever particular thread they want to stand out from their work. In this case, “Persepolis” comes from an ancient Greek word for what we now call Iran (previously known as Babylon, Mesopotamia ) , specifically coined during Alexander the Great’s visit to a city of similar name, which was the capital of the ancient kingdom of the same name. Darius I made this city the capitol of his empire . So , by calling her book “Persepolis”, rather than “Iran”, the author is evoking the rich cultural history of this nation, one that has been powerful and civilized, for thousands of years. As you read the story, you will see the contrast she is drawing, with modern day conditions in her homeland, and the irony she intends in this titular choice.