By Marjane Satrapi
I’m really unsure how to rate this.
I really enjoyed this. I read it during my train rides in the mornings and evenings for three days, and at least twice I had to put it down because I was tearing up and didn’t want to frighten the work crowd that was pushing in around me on the trains. It was such evocative, moving work, the sort I rarely get to read because I don’t pick up comics – even though the two you have introduced me to so far have had so much value and insight. This was also packed with information. I know that, at some point over the year, I’m going to have to just learn more about Iranian history and then re-read this book, now with some context. Although the infographics were very helpful, at points I really just felt like I need to know more to really understand the historical context of what’s going on. I do, nonetheless, intend to lend it to my cousins so that they can hopefully learn a thing or two in the meantime. Because it’s a fantastic read, and you can learn so much off the bat.
I suppose my problem with the book was the character – or the author, since it’s based off her life. Even within the context of Iran, she clearly led such a privileged life. I didn’t know anything about Marx growing up because my parents were not so educated, they would not and still do not know about these things. Her family owned a lot, and only at one or two points does she seem to reckon her privilege as a child or teenager (once, when she recognises that her maid’s child suffers worse in the war, and another when she sits in her fancy car and feels ashamed), but she goes to a fancy French school, and holidays in Europe, and is just very privileged. Even when she comes back from Europe, she has a moment where she thinks, “Oh, I had it easier,” but that’s short-lived.
But of course, when a book is based off a real life – well, you can’t really critique it, can you? It’s just their life. When she leaves for Europe for a few years, I was so frustrated with her behaviour, speaking out and squandering her money – maybe because I know that, even at 15, I would have never done those things. Me, and my siblings, would have had a lot more respect for a safe home and any amount of money. So I suppose, the source of my frustration wasn’t anything about the book, but the inevitable comparison I make between her behaviour and my, “What would I do?” You can’t make such a comparison, I suppose, because I never lived through a war. Maybe some people in my family did, two generations ago and half of them in a different country, but I’ve never. I don’t know how I would act. I like to think the author drew the way she did to characterise her selfishness and naiveté of herself in that time as exactly that: of that time; that she has grown since then, realised that for all her suffering, her family were all kept safe because they had the resources to.
I’m sure she does. And besides this critique, which is not so much critique as personal grievance, I really did enjoy this comic. I can only hope to find more like it, because they’re so easy to consume, and the visual material really does leave a starker impression – in the way words have to try a lot harder to.