A Childhood in Iran – Excerpts from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic novel depicting the upheavals of the 1970s and 1980s in Iran as seen through a girl’s eyes. Marjane Satrapi was born in Rasht, a city with a population of three-quarters of a million on the Caspian Sea, in the same year that Woodstock was held. Marji (as her friends called her) grew up in a liberal home, her parents being enlightened left-wing intellectuals who rejected religion. After her family had moved to Tehran, Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution changed Marjane’s life and her country overnight. Thousands of people were killed, and two and a half million more emigrated. The religious war against Saddam Hussein turned into an irrational inferno.

Using the example of her own childhood, award-winning author Marjane Satrapi described the drama besetting a whole society. Her depiction of the conditions prevailing in Iran became one of the world’s best-selling comic books – a genre which is perhaps the most blatant contrast to the fanatical theocracy. Using plain, unfussy, almost clumsy black-and-white drawings, Satrapi tells of her first cigarette, drinking alcohol and listening to rock music in secret, of the compulsory wearing of the hijab enforced by the Revolutionary Guards, the sudden missile attack on her Tehran neighbourhood, and the disappearance without trace of dissident relatives.