Humor despite war – Persepolis | Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is an autobiographical depiction of Marjane Satrapi’s life in Iran in the late 1900s. At the time, Iran was fraught with internal conflicts and external influence – a rebellion against the reigning Shah in 1979 followed by the war with Iraq, all of which resulted in Iran becoming a theocratic nation today, governed strictly under the rules of Islam.

Into a country where all kinds of media or potential influences against Islam go  through strict scrutiny, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is a one-sided glass window. It lets the outside world peek into the life of Iranians at the time, particularly the author’s own life. The book is divided into two parts. The Story of a Childhood is about a young Marjane Satrapi who grows up in Iran when it was rebelling against its monarchy. The Story of a Return deals with a mix of teenage confusion and the sudden need for Western assimilation that she is suddenly faced with.

It is no doubt that what first draws any reader to Persepolis is the lure of a glimpse into life in Iran, a working model of a theocratic nation. What makes them stay is the endearing way that Satrapi honestly tells her story – all her mistakes and decisions and conflicts – her growth from being an all-knowing kid who boasted about her uncle’s torturous treatment in prison to a girl who tries to find her identity in a foreign nation while being emotionally stuck in her own country.

In a way, Persepolis takes Haruki Murakami’s quote and flips it over:

In the midst of [death], everything revolved around [life].

The most wonderful thing about the book is how light-hearted it remains despite being engulfed in war. Maybe it was a recollection of Satrapi being a child, thus being protected by her parents. Or it might have been a reflection of her personality – her rebellious side and her natural nonchalance – as described by one of her friends; the kind of personality people might silently evolve into to hold their own against an oppressive regime.

Despite high expectations, Satrapi has a way of making you fall in pace with herself. The smooth transitions between storytelling and narration makes it feel like you’re having a tete-a-tete with her. It also helps that she provides an unbiased and in-depth analysis of her own life. So when the gravity of her worries shift from the latest bombing to friends she feels alienated from, you understand the transition completely while still wondering at the extremities. You can see all the factors going into creating and re-shaping her personality – her nation’s political situation, her cross-culture exposure, her education, reading and the unconditional support of her parents. All things aside, Persepolis is also a shout-out to feminism, the urge of not conforming to society and continuing the journey to discover your identity. It is a reveling story illustrated such that the images will keep coming back to you for a long time.



If you’re not used to reading comics, you can still pick this up. But give yourself some room to adjust to the form of representation and don’t hurry yourself. While people say it easy to read comics, I feel the best illustrated ones are usually a tad more tedious to read than regular novels, because there is so much more information flowing into the brain. In the end, it will definitely be worth it.




Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)

So, I finally got around to reading a Murakami book and for no particular reason, I ended up picking Norwegian wood. It was a pretty decent read, and quite different from my usual fantasy novels.

What I liked the most about this book was, well, the writing style. Murakami has this way of drawing you in. Of course I haven’t read any of his other books, I have them on my to-read list already, because he doesn’t seem to be a disappointing writer. The characters were another strong point of the book. I liked how the protagonist refrained from categorizing characters, since no person can be fairly tagged with a single adjective. Murakami himself didn’t indulge in explaining each and everything everyone in the book did and he left a fair portion of the people in the book a mystery to the reader, just like in real lives. More than anything else, he presented an amazing variety of characters, who I found a little weird in the beginning, but got used to very quickly(not to mention one of them closely resembled one of my friends). To put it simply, Murakami’s characters were strange. They were easy to fall in love with, and they felt real.

That being said, the plot didn’t seem a very huge aspect of the novel. It was fairly predictable, but that didn’t make the book any less appealing. The characters were constantly juggling with love, death and life(and sex). A lot of death and sex. Quite a few of them ended up killing themselves and almost all serious conversations ended up with sex. The suicides were off-putting for me. I’m a fairly optimistic person, and suicides never seem to be the right choice to me(I may be naive in thinking so, but that’s my take for now). Death is too extreme, and, well, it ends all other future options, and I can’t help but think that there has to be some other alternative. This was probably why I couldn’t like the book as much as I wanted to.

Anyways, it had many good quotes, and here are a few I liked…


The main themes of the book: life and death.


For all of us who love to experiment different book styles, here’s a legitimate reason.


Harder than it sounds. If only the characters followed through with it…


A unique way to put it. I’ll be using this for sure.


That does it. No more am I gonna pity myself.


Makes sense. It would be too easy in a perfect world to push ourselves beyond our abilities.


The sad truth..


It was really a heartbreaking story. Funny how they are always the most moving.


A great self-description. I started liking Nagasawa after this, though it didn’t last for long.

And that’s it. Norwegian Wood is a story about different people, how they reconcile with their pasts, and decide on the path they want to follow. It has a sad tone to it, and it obviously is not a very good choice when you’re looking for a thriller. There were some parts of the book that I absolutely loved and others that I didn’t feel strongly about(and a few that I disliked) , but it definitely got me thinking about a lot of things. It’s a book that I’d like to discuss.

Rating: 4/5