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the Complete Review
the complete review - comic book

Persepolis (3)
(Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return)

Marjane Satrapi

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To purchase The Complete Persepolis

Title: Persepolis (3)
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Genre: comic book
Written: 2002
Length: 92 pages
Original in: French
Availability: in The Complete Persepolis - US
in The Complete Persepolis - UK
in The Complete Persepolis - Canada
in Persepolis - France
in Persepolis - Deutschland
  • The English translation is titled: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, but it is, in fact volumes three and four of the French edition.
  • See also our review of volumes 1 and 2 (published in English as Persepolis)

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Our Assessment:

B : decent comic-book version of unusual adolescence

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Economist . 30/10/2004 .
The LA Times . 15/8/2004 Laurel Maury
New York . 20/9/2004 Boris Kachka
The NY Rev. of Books A 24/3/2005 Patricia Storace
The NY Times Book Rev. A 22/8/2004 Luc Sante
The Observer . 7/11/2004 Samantha Ellis
San Francisco Chronicle . 29/8/2004 Sandip Roy
Time . 23/8/2004 Lisa McLaughlin

  From the Reviews:
  • "Yet there is a deceptive simplicity to Ms Satrapi's drawings, which capture a range of emotions with an economy of line. With a notch of a pen above or below an eye, she can render compassion or fatigue. In this way, she teases out universal feelings to draw attention to her country's troubled politics. The effect is powerful." - The Economist

  • "Satrapi loses her cuddliness in exile in book two (.....) But for all of her humility, the simplicity of Satrapiís work may be what makes it universal: Her cartoon icons represent the conflicted self, the veil of identity politics hiding the lonely navel-gazer within." - Boris Kachka, New York

  • "(I)mplacably witty and fearless (.....) Fittingly, Satrapi's style in Volume 2 is more adult, and more assured as well." - Patricia Storace, The New York Review of Books

  • "Satrapi's story is compelling and extremely complex, not simply in its windings and reversals of fortune but in its manifold ironies and acknowledged contradictions. It would have made a stirring document no matter how it was told, but the graphic form, with its cinematic motion and its style as personal as handwriting, endows it with a combination of dynamism and intimacy uniquely suited to a narrative at once intensely subjective and world-historical." - Luc Sante, the New York Times Book Review

  • "While this sequel lacks the narrative punch of the first book, it enables Satrapi to reflect on the consequences of revolution. (...) Satrapi has a disarming voice and her drawings are as packed as Persian miniatures, but it is her uncensorable honesty that makes her work so challenging and so pleasurable to read." - Samantha Ellis, The Observer

  • "What is astonishing about Satrapi's work is that with evocative drawings and minimal use of words, it creates immensely sympathetic and real characters" - Sandip Roy, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Satrapi's drawing style is graceful and unfussy, with strong lines, heavy blacked-in figures and inky shadows. By telling her own story in lean, simple strokes, she also tells the complicated modern history of her country." - Lisa McLaughlin, Time

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The third part of Marjane Satrapi's comic book Persepolis-saga (see also our review of volumes 1 and 2) begins with teenage Marjane's arrival in Vienna, Austria, where she is sent by her parents in 1984, to escape oppressive and dangerous Iran. She moves in with Iranian friends -- Zozo, her husband Houshang, and their daughter Chirine (a childhood friend) but it's a short-lived plan. These are unhappy exiles -- the wife reduced to being a hair stylist, the husband unable to find work -- and they don't have room for (and Zozo in particular doesn't have interest in looking after) another child.
       After ten days Marjane is moved to a boarding house run by nuns in the city centre. She attends the Lycée Français and eventually makes a few friends. Still: she is something of an outsider, without family or, for example, a place to go over Christmas vacation -- but things more or less work out for her. She makes a few friends, her roommate invites her to the Tyrol for Christmas, etc.
       Marjane has something of a temper, and occasionally she explodes. Usually there's a reason -- the nuns insult her, her landlady accuses her of theft -- but Marjane's outbursts cost her a place to live several times. Over her years in Vienna she moves about quite a bit, sometimes welcomed but never really able to establish any firm roots. For a while she even sleeps on the streets.
       Her changing body, different Western mores (especially regarding relationships between the sexes), and budding romantic ambitions also add to the complications. Much of this is the usual teenage stuff, but without parental guidance and the safety of a true home, Marjane has a bit more to deal with than most. Inevitably, there is both heartbreak and romance.
       A visit from her mother provides a bit of comfort, but it's only a brief respite. And her parents have their own troubles back in Iran, so Marjane isn't really able to burden them with all that troubles her.
       Marjane does very well in school, but life outside remains somewhat tumultuous -- with her anarchist friends, desire for romance, odd jobs (including a bit of drug dealing), the election of Kurt Waldheim as Austrian president, and a general resurgence of anti-immigrant fervour in Austria. Eventually things spiral downhill -- her boyfriend cheats on her, her landlady calls her a thief -- and she is left completely adrift.
       Ultimately, she decides to return home -- making her parents promise never to ask her about what happened. It is clearly a tough decision for her, as she knows what she is giving up by returning to Iran, but given her lonesomeness apart from her family it is also understandable that she would want to return to the fold.
       Like the first two volumes of Persepolis this one is about a clash of cultures and the difficulties of a child and then adolescent in dealing both with that and the universal problems of growing up. Whereas in the first two volumes the clash was between the relatively free tradition Marjane had been raised in and the new, very conservative religious standards put in place in post-revolutionary Iran, in the third it is a more complicated (though also familiar) one of East meeting West, compounded by Marjane's imposed self-reliance (as there is no adult figure to offer much guidance or help).
       Satrapi's simple black-and-white drawings, with their effective use of both (especially the heavy blacks), illustrate the stories well. Her episodic telling -- bits from the four years, covering all the highs and lows -- is simple yet works well: a great deal (of story and of feeling) is conveyed in these few words and pages. While it doesn't have quite the impact of the more foreign picture presented in the first two volumes, it is still a solid, moving piece of work.

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Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return: Reviews: Marjane Satrapi: Other books by Marjane Satrapi under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Iranian comic-book author Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969. She now lives in France.

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