24. Embroideries

I  couldn’t wait to get my hands on another Marjane Satrapi graphic novel.  So while browsing Amazon.fr looking for EFL books for a class I ran across Embroideries.  I pressed add and in my basket it went.  When I received the book, the quote on the back cover that struck me was “By turns bawdy and heartbreaking…Of all Satrapi’s books, Embroideries most effectively tears down the divide between Iranian and American culture, showing how women everywhere are similar.”  –  The Capital Times (Madison)  I had the same feeling while reading Persepolis.

Initially on the book’s arrival I was disappointed to see how short it was.  I remembered how much I had enjoyed Persepolis and how I didn’t want it to end.  Well, Embroideries is so short that I read it in less than an hour and I was trying to make it last.  I read it the same day it arrived in the mail.  After dinner, I got comfy in my armchair in the living room near the window and read it in 45 minutes.  How did I find it?  The graphic style is the same as Persepolis and the ambiance of the storytelling too.  Marjane Satrapi’s recalcitrant, comical, sarky, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother makes a reappearance.  It definitely wouldn’t be as humorous without her.  Embroideries, is essentially a short story about ladies getting together for afternoon tea to engage in discussion, which leads them to talk about the sexual habits of Iranian women.  “The tea that we prepared at these times had a completely different function.  Everyone gathered around the drink in order to devote themselves to their favorite activity : DISCUSSION.  This discussion had its own purpose:  To speak behind others’ backs is the ventilator of the heart…” (Embroideries)  The samovar or tea is just the opportunity for these women to get together.  This is not any different from any other part of the world.  Women getting together can lead to all kinds of different discussions, including sex, contrary to popular belief.  Each woman tells an awkward tale involving a relationship with a man, about sex, or both.  Some of the stories are really quite funny.  Through these accounts you understand better about the way the women feel about sex, men, and marriage and also how the men don’t seem to be controlling as much as think they are.

I’m giving Embroideries three and a half stars.  I can’t give it more because it seems to have opened Pandora’s box but doesn’t go deep enough.   Although, I’m not disappointed I read it I was hoping for so much more.  In spite of everything, Marjane Satrapi is a brilliant graphic artist and has introduced the culture of Iran and Iranian people’s everyday lives through her works to her readers.  Most importantly, she succeeds at doing this with a universal approach.

22. Persepolis

A while back I watched a snippet of Persepolis with my family.  I immediately stopped when I realized it was written originally as a graphic novel.  I always prefer reading the book before seeing the movie.  This is a first for me reading a graphic novel and I got lucky and picked it up at WH Smith’s in Paris for only 9€.  I don’t usually read manga or comics but I found Persepolis a real pleasure.  So glad I read it!  So much so, I began reading at a slower pace to savor it longer.

This version is the complete version and has two books – The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return.  In essence Persepolis is the story of the Islamic revolution in Iran told by a precocious and free-speaking little Iranian girl.  It’s touching, shocking, humorous, surprising, and melancholy.  This amazing story shows that among all the extraordinary changes that happened during the revolution the Iranians were trying and fighting to live their lives as normally as possible, in spite of all the new laws and oppression.  People were falling in love, trying to study, getting married, working, surviving…….

Satrapi has written what she calls a fictionalized memoir.  She details the difficulties of life under the regime and life as a young Iranian living in Europe and being misunderstood, insulted, and mostly alone.  I think most people have their opinions about Iran but they would need to read this book to comprehend how these changes altered Iranians everyday lives forever; not to mention how their past culture has been thrown away and replaced by repression and fear.  What I took away from this book is, everybody wants to be happy and live life freely.   I give Persepolis 5 golden stars and strongly urge you all to read it.  You just might learn something.

Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian born French national.  She is a graphic novelist, illustrator, and animated film director.  She is multilingual and although her maternal language is Persian she additionally speaks German, Spanish, Swedish, French, and Italian.  She won the Jury Prize for Persepolis at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.  Unfortunately, Persepolis was not in contention for the Oscar of Best Foreign film which frankly was an injustice.  It remained in the running for the Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars where it lost to Ratatouille.  She has written other novels such as Chicken with Plums (film released in October 2011) and Embroideries.