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#80 [May. 19th, 2008|03:26 pm]

100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)

#80 PERSEPOLIS – Marjane Satrapi

“Surely not! Politics and sentiment don’t mix.”

Marjane Satrapi’s memoir begins in Iran during the late ’70s, where even as a child she is torn between religion and politics. With a child’s simple devotion she has bedtime conversations with God, who appears in her room as a kindly, bearded man who wants her to become a prophet. Meanwhile, the more revolutionary members of her family inspire her, with the help of a comic book called Dialectic Materialism, to idealise Karl Marx, who appears as a kindly, bearded man who wants her to be a Communist.

When the Iranian Revolution occurs the liberal intellectuals of her family see it as a victory, until the Cultural Revolution follows it and The People disappoint them by turning the country into a fundamentalist, theocratic republic. As religion triumphs over politics in Iran, the reverse becomes true in Satrapi, who abandons God. The political makes way for the personal when she leaves the country at her parents’ suggestion, fleeing to study in Europe where her rebellious and questioning nature won’t get her in trouble. But her nature is a problem in itself. Raised by doting, sheltering parents in a restrictive society, outside the nest she finds the free world is very different. Satrapi is betrayed, just like her country, from within.

Persepolis is about people (and The People) not living up to their own ideals, being measured and falling short, but it’s also about the little victories and the importance of the revolutions that happen in our homes and hearts. For those of us who’ve never had anything as basic as the way we dress or whether we’re allowed to make simple displays of affection in public dictated to us by our government, Persepolis is an eye-opening book, not just because it shows us the abuses we imagine, but the small rebellions we do not. It shows us a world where gestures like buying a banned Kim Wilde tape and wearing a denim jacket can be as important as a manifesto or a thrown rock.