Persepolis – the graphic memoir

A few years ago we met an Iranian family in Frankfurt. My wife knew Ali through her work and had met him in San Diego; he was now on his way to Iran with wife and son. We spent a few hours together during their transit halt at Frankfurt.

Ali’s Persian looks presented an unmistakable contrast to his American accent and mannerisms; his wife and teenage son seemed to blend in better with the western surroundings. Over lunch we spoke of life in the US (good), cars in Germany (not as big as those in US), and other trivial matters. Towards the end Ali casually remarked that they would have to change into traditional clothes before their flight landed in Iran. I was surprised, and pressed for an explanation.

“Women there cannot walk freely in western clothes,” he replied, in a matter-of-fact manner. “She will have to wear a veil before she leaves the plane.” Then pointing to his son he said: “Even he cannot walk out like this, wearing shorts.”

They had left Iran for the US soon after the revolution in 1979. When the religious fundamentalists had begun to alter the culture through strict rules and restrictions, it had become difficult to continue. They now visited their homeland every few years, to meet relatives and to keep in touch with their roots. He would love to return home, but not until the fundamentalists and their ways were removed.

I was reminded of this meeting today as I read Persepolis, a childhood story of a woman who spent her early years in Iran through those years of transition. I borrowed the book from the library because it was based on comic-strips, a genre I’ve stumbled upon recently (and enjoy very much).


Telling the story of living in a repressed society through the eyes of a child gives Persepolis a force that would otherwise be difficult to convey through the graphic form. The innocence behind the perception and understanding of the revolution, the childlike fears of facing its consequences, and the helplessness of the little girl and her parents leave you feeling shattered.

This is only my second book in the graphic/comic-book form (I’ve read Joe Sacco’s Palestine), and to me it seems like a medium with immense possibilities. I’ve often wondered why I don’t see blogs that express ideas through graphics (It is hard to believe that so few bloggers can draw, and although the difficulty of scanning and uploading sketches may deter some, the serious ones should not find that an obstacle; a more likely reason is that very few artists are into blogging.) When this thought recurred after reading Persepolis, I made an attempt to draw the first image in the book (shown above). The sketch showed clearly that my talent lay elsewhere, but with some effort I believe one can “fine-tune” ones skills enough to draw something acceptable for a journal. Let me see where this takes me…

11 thoughts on “Persepolis – the graphic memoir

  1. Mmmm, one of my favourite books. You got both parts?

    Now read Maus.

    It isn’t easy doing a graphic novel… I know cos a friend of mine is working on one and it takes weeks to finish just one chapter. It isn’t just words and drawings, but also devices and visualisation is full time work.

  2. Yo alphie da ! what he has put is not his werke. It is a lift off from the Amazon site []. This is clearly the way of Parmanu – which colors will vouch for – to put a picture and then write in detail of an effort and cleverly leading people to make the connection betwwen the 2 themselves, so he can absolve himself of not having written anything to the effect ! :))
    [ Ha – i am in the wrong profession – am’nt i ? 😉 ]

  3. Even a blind bat (note the double stress) would’ve seen that what I put up was a copy of a printed version and not a pencil sketch. But alpha’s faith in my abilities can only be matched by loosemuse’s belief in his theory. To set right the record, I’ve decided to
    show something original to the world.

    Kahini, I hope to get the second part soon, and then Maus. Yes, graphic novels are labour intensive – when is your friend’s book coming out?

  4. wait wait…first let me finish laughing at Parmanu’s sketch..( laughing period )
    Man! You ought to contact Ramsay if he ever decides to come out with a comic strip or maybe Loosemuse shud contact him, if he really looks like that (for a nice meaty role). With that kind of teeth, Loosie, you’d give alligators a complex. Next time walk around with your eyeballs in your sockets… it can scar young kids like Parmanu.

    You better stick to typing and clicking pictures.

    Quoting him “When this thought recurred after reading Persepolis, I made an attempt to draw the first image in the book (shown above). The sketch showed clearly that my talent lay elsewhere, but with some effort I believe one can “fine-tune” ones skills enough to draw something acceptable for a journal.”

    I actually fell for it! *sigh* Though I didn’t credit him with too much originality, at least I thought he traced it, used black print ink and stuff ( I know lot of effort, but with Parmanu you never know). Without going thru any of that effort, here’s one.

  5. parmanu – i know age has not diminished your memory or blurred your eye for detail, but are you really sure you have not got our two pictures mixed up ? ;P
    [ hehehhe ! 🙂 u have got that one right though – alphie in a black hep brother image of the 70s ! :p ]
    BTW – alph – have u thought of making a ‘parmanupolis’ ? I will be a technical consultant and add to the detail ! 😛 ]

  6. yeah man, what’s with my hair looking like Rajesh khanna’s and what’s with Loosmuse not having any clothes on? I am getting slightly concerned.

    parmanupolis? naah… I’m sure there’s a horde of female fans who’ve already sent their first draft to the editors. I settle with making a story on you Loosie.

  7. Interesting exchange (as usual, I should say, with Alpha around).

    You’ve reminded me of the Illustration Course I attended a couple of years ago. You’ve also reminded me that I’m terribly rusty now…

  8. Parmanu: Persepolis – the graphic memoir

    I mentioned a post of Hurree’s, which explored the nature of comics as meaningful graphic novels.
    Here’s an old post by Parmanu in a similar vein. He makes a pretty decent attempt at the art form iself. Since he’s disappeared since …

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