Persepolis 2 is the comic book sequel to the autobiography of Iranian author and illustrator Marjane Satrapi. The first volume, published in 2003, was praised for its ability to convey the real state of affairs in Iran through the eyes of a young Satrapi. Persepolis 2 picks up where that left off. It is 1984 and Satrapi is 14 years old. At her parents’ request, she has moved to Austria to begin studying and escape the unstable Iran. Not only are we taken through the compellingly honest frustrations and insecurities of being a typical teenager but also the struggle to be accepted as a misunderstood foreigner. From the outset she is portrayed as exceptionally politically aware for her age, although not necessarily better off for it. When shocked by the interests of a childhood friend she thinks to herself “What a traitor! While people were dying in our country she was talking to me about trivial things.”
Satrapi endures a series of misfortunes and decides to return home to Iran, but here extreme conservatism clashes with her adopted Western habits of partying and dating. Her initial culture shock lends many clues to the political environment of Iran, “It wasn’t just the veil I have to readjust, there were also the images: the 65ft high murals representing martyrs, adorned with slogans honouring them,” not to mention having to ask oneself when leaving the house, “Can my make-up be seen?” instead of, “Where is my freedom of thought?” Satrapi’s adjustment becomes complete as she again begins to speak her mind against authority, undaunted by the consequences. Stopped in the street for “obscene” movements when running she yells at a stunned Guardian of the Revolution, “Well, then don’t look at my ass!”
Persepolis 2’s may seem an unconventional medium to tell such a story. Yet its format is what sets this coming of age story apart. The simplicity of the black and white ink drawings brings life to what is being said and also what is not. A criticism of this work may be just that, the content is so engaging that one does not take full notice of the subtle intricacies in the illustrations. After reading and viewing Persepolis 2 – ideally more than once – you begin to appreciate the harmony between the telling of such a unique story and witnessing it played out, almost like seeing it at a cinema. As it seems all films come in threes these days, hopefully the third is on its way.