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Persepolis Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Marjane Satrapi
Born in Rasht, Iran, Marjane grew up going to French language schools in Tehran. Her family was highly educated and modern in its outlook, which put it in a difficult position when the Revolution that overthrew the American-backed Shah of Iran ultimately resulted in the establishment of a repressively conservative Islamic Republic. As a teenager, Marjane was sent by her family to a French school Vienna in 1984. Returning to Iran after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Marjane attended a masters program in the School of Fine Arts in Tehran Islamic Azad University until 1994. During this time she got married but the marriage was short-lived and the couple divorced within three years; after graduating, Marjane worked for a short time as an illustrator for an economics magazine. Marjane then returned to Europe and attended school in Strasbourg to study Decorative Arts. In 2000 she published the four volumes of Persepolis in French, which was then published in English in two volumes in 2003 and 2004.
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Historical Context of Persepolis
The many events that Marjane illustrates in Persepolis follow a linear path from the 1979 Iranian Revolution, to the political and social upheaval immediately following it with the rise of the Islamic Republic after a nationwide referendum, to the subsequent Iraq-Iran War, which still rages at the end of the graphic novel. The 1979 Revolution, which was marked by mass protests and political disobedience, led to the fleeing and overthrowing of the autocratic the American-backed Shah, who had been the king of Iran after inheriting the title from his father. The Shah was particularly known for his attempts at modernizing the country, for his land reform policies, and his reliance on a brutal secret police to realize his aims. In 1980, Iraq attacked Iran, which led to the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war, which left hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers dead.
Other Books Related to Persepolis
Persepolis is part of a burgeoning field of new serious comic books, often called graphic novels. While comic books were in the past not taken seriously, or seen as possessing much literary merit, this changed most prominently with the publication and following acclaim of Art Spiegleman’s Maus, which was serialized in magazines for eleven years until a final and complete edition came out in 1991 and won a Special Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Maus, which deals as its subject with the Holocaust, was a harbinger for a critical reconsideration of the merits and possibilities of comic books.
Key Facts about Persepolis
  • Full Title: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
  • When Written: 1999
  • Where Written: France
  • When Published: 2003 (in English)
  • Genre: Graphic Novel; Memoir
  • Setting: Mostly Tehran
  • Climax: The bombing of the Baba-Levy home
  • Antagonist: The regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Point of View: First person (Marjane)
Extra Credit for Persepolis

Polyglot. Marjane speaks six languages: Farsi, French, German, English, Swedish, and Italian

The Big Screen. Persepolis was turned into an animated film and released in 2007. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.