Saturday, 6 June 2015

Book Review [☆☆☆☆☆] Persepolis. Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis (on Goodreads) is one of those stories, that make me awe at how real they are, and how much they resonate with my own thoughts and experiences.

Now let me explain. I’m from Ukraine, and in case you don’t know, there is an ongoing conflict in the east of the country, where it borders with Russia. It’s not as much scary, as confusing. The information I have on the topic is not more than occasional snippets of news, that pop up on my news feed. You see, I don’t understand politics and I don’t want to, at least right now. That little understanding of the situation that I have, I try to keep to myself for various reasons.

So whenever people ask me for my opinion on the matter, which thankfully is very rare, I just ask them if they’ve read Persepolis.

“This! This is pretty much what’s going on and how to perceive it.”

I don’t go into detail, drawing parallels, as I don’t like getting into political arguments, and it all just makes me feel even more sad and panicky.

I do have an opinion, but I lack the means and support to not be afraid to voice it. Not now. Not yet.

Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, that focuses on events of her childhood during the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 in the first part of the book. The second part follows Marjane, as she goes to study abroad and has a lot of personal issues growing up, and how she later comes back to Iran etc.

The novel is showing the historical events in the perspective of 10 year old Marjane, who was from a middle class family, that actively participated in the revolution. At the same time we are introduced to characters with different family backgrounds and hence standing on different “steps” of social ladder, like their neighbours, relatives and friends or just accidental encounters. In that way we can get a pretty much complete picture of the situation, described from all possible points of view.

What particularly struck me in the story. These are just some of my thoughts. The story itself is short, but the topics it covers are really complex, and I’d probably have to write a ten part review to cover them all.

Heroes. I know this might sound weird, because we’ve always been taught to respect people, who sacrifice their lives for a better cause. But since we are trying to live in a modern world here, isn’t it time to let go of this medieval philosophy and start appreciating life more? It’s complicated. There are different situations and I can’t really jump to conclusions here. But I want my heroes alive and healthy. I’m a peaceful person, and I want to think that any conflict can be solved without violence. I want to think that people are already smart enough to do that. I know it’s not always the case. But I often hear this statement, that the more developed and prosperous the society gets, the more it tends to restrain itself from using violence as a tool of justice. So every time I watch the news and see whatever it is that I see, I just think, that we’re not there yet, and I don’t know, if we’re ever gonna be that smart and thoughtful to actually care about life enough, to not protect it by killing and hurting. I don’t like to be hurt. I don’t like hurting other people. And oh how I wish to get to see that day, when everyone would think and act this way.

Poverty is a trap. There was one moment in the story, where Marjane’s mother was talking to her neighbour, and how the neighbour’s son was taught in school about how great and wonderful it would be to die in battle. Marjane then remembers that her cousin never had to hear that from his teachers, because they came from a higher social background. I think the reason for that is, that richer people get to choose, where and how to live their life. If you don’t have the means to move to a safer place, you are too dependent on the authorities. And there is no way of knowing, if the authorities will care enough to protect you, or just try to use you as a weapon in their own little games. If you are poor, you are easier to manipulate, just because you don’t have that much of a choice. I know, I know, the government is there to protect it’s people. But it doesn’t always work that way. That’s why, until further notice, I’ve allowed myself to be a bit egoistic and care for my own well-being.

History repeats itself! Your situation is not unique! As I’ve mentioned before, the story of Persepolis strongly resonated with me, because I recognise so much of it in the recent events, in what I’ve seen and heard on the news everyday for the last year (or even longer). And I remember from my high-school history class this saying about knowing your history.
The nation, that doesn’t learn its own history, will have to repeat it.
I’ll go even further than that and say, that if you are ignorant to the world around you, you will make all the mistakes, that have been done before, but don’t even expect any help or sympathy, because you should have known better. I know, that learning from your own mistakes is an important experience. But some mistakes are better to avoid.

A few more thoughts on violence and doom. They say that we are living in the most peaceful time in the recorded history of the world, and we really do. But for some reason there are still claims about how screwed up the world is becoming and that it indicates the end of our times, whatever. Well, I think that we react so strongly to all the wrongdoings, because we want to live in a world without wars and violence, but we haven’t quite figured out how to do it yet. This picture of a peaceful world is already in our mindset. I think it’s good. I want to think that it means, that we are already on our way to this better world.


  1. I really really really want to read this, like so badly

    1. It really is brilliant. <3 There's also a film adaptation - beautifully animated, although it leaves out some really important details.