Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return


Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return Study Guide

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Brief Biography of Marjane Satrapi

As Satrapi explains in her graphic memoirs, she was born in Rasht, Iran to middle-class parents. Her mother and father were liberal and politically active. They sent young Satrapi to a French language school in Tehran until the Iranian Revolution began in 1979. Over the course of the Revolution, many of the Satrapis’ family friends were killed by the various regimes that ruled Iran. Fearing for her safety, her parents sent Satrapi to Vienna to study in 1984 (this is when the events of Persepolis 2 begin). After four years, Satrapi returned to Iran, was married briefly to a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, and obtained her master’s degree from Islamic Azad University. Finally, when Satrapi was 23, she returned to Europe to reside in Strasbourg, France. In 2000, she began publishing her series of Persepolis novels in French, which catapulted her to fame. After publishing several other award-winning graphic novels, Satrapi turned to filmmaking. She directed the film adaptation of Persepolis, which was met with exceptional reviews when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Satrapi also directed the live-action horror film The Voices, for which she and actor Ryan Reynolds won several awards. Satrapi lives in Paris.
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Historical Context of Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

During her time in Vienna, Marjane confronts a Western world that, to her, seems impossibly modern and progressive. She specifically notes the consequences of the 1960s sexual revolution (namely, the increasing availability of the birth control pill) and the increase in demand for recreational drugs like cannabis, heroin, and cocaine. Many of Marjane’s friends in Vienna are very interested in anarchist philosophy and idolize Mikhail Bakunin. Simply put, Bakunin (1814–1876) rejected all forms of authority and took issue with Marxism—he believed that a Marxist-style revolution would never result in a free, egalitarian, and leaderless society, which is ostensibly the goal of both anarchism and Marxism. Once back in Iran, Marjane has to confront the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War and Iran’s oppressive, fundamentalist government. The Iran-Iraq War, which ended in 1988, resulted in the deaths of up to 500,000 soldiers and civilians from both sides, and it devastated Iran’s culture and economy. The Islamic fundamentalist government, meanwhile, mandated that women wear full veils in public and barred women from studying a number of subjects at universities.

Other Books Related to Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

Persepolis 2 is a follow-up to Persepolis, the first installment of Satrapi’s illustrated memoir series. Since the publication of Art Spiegleman’s graphic novel Maus (which inspired Satrapi to use the form for her own books), graphic novels have risen in status. Like Satrapi, many authors have used the medium to tell their own memoirs, as Alison Bechdel does in Fun Home and Craig Thompson does in Blankets. Other authors and cartoonists have used graphic novels to explore complex ideas in a format that makes those ideas more accessible, particularly for students who are reluctant readers. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is one of the most well-known examples of a graphic novel that’s been used extensively in classrooms for this purpose. In addition, due to graphic novels’ unique ability to engage reluctant readers, many classic novels—from Beowulf to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale—have been adapted into a graphic novel form. Finally, though not a graphic novel, it’s worth mentioning the memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, which takes place around the same time and place as Persepolis and Persepolis 2 do. In this book, Iranian professor Azar Nafisi details her experience of the Islamic Revolution and the women’s book club she started after resigning from her teaching position. Like Satrapi, Nafisi ultimately left Iran in the 1990s.
Key Facts about Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
  • Full Title: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
  • When Written: 2002–2003
  • Where Written: France
  • When Published: Two French volumes in 2002 and 2003; English translation in 2004
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Graphic Novel; Memoir
  • Setting: Vienna, Austria and Tehran, Iran; 1984–1993
  • Climax: Marjane decides to divorce Reza and move back to Europe.
  • Antagonist: Marjane’s Viennese landlords; Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist government; bigotry and sexism
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return

Call it What it Is. Satrapi acknowledges that calling Persepolis, Persepolis 2, and other graphic novels “comic books” can dredge up unflattering stereotypes and make the books seem less literary. However, she insists that her novels are indeed comic books.

Proud Parents. Satrapi has said that her parents are very proud of her for writing Persepolis. She credits her mother and father’s good-natured reception of the book to the fact that they’re open-minded and willing to change their perspectives when presented with new information.