Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
is the 2004 black-and-white graphic autobiography written by Iranian author Marjane Satrapi. Set in 1984 Austria, the story follows teenage Marjane, aka Marji, as she returns to her homeland after years of studying abroad in Europe. While away from home, Marji begins to realize how different the west is from the east and starts to suffer a culture shock as a result. Determined to graduate university and find her way in a foreign land, Marji undergoes a major transformation when she begins using drugs and becomes homeless. Upon returning home to Iran, Marji meets and unhappily marries a man named Reza before returning to Europe for good. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
has been called “delectable…dances with drama and insouciant wit” by The New York Times Book Review
, and a “brilliant and unusual graphic memoir” by Vogue
. The graphic novel was named A New York Times
Notable Book, a Time Magazine
“Best Comix of the Year,” as well as a Los Angeles Times
and San Francisco Chronicle
bestseller. In 2007, Persepolis
was adapted as a film by Sony Pictures Classic. Satrapi co-directed the film with Vincent Paronnaud. The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year.
Narrated in the first-person perspective by Satrapi between the age of 15 and 19, the story begins in 1984 Vienna, Austria. Marji is a painter who has left her homeland in Tehran, Iran to flee the violent Iranian regime, study art abroad, and begin life anew. When Marji arrives at her private boarding schoolhouse, she experiences immediate culture shock. Unable to speak German and communicate with her neighbors and housemates, Marji soon overcomes the language barrier and begins to make new friends. However, Marji’s mother’s friend, Zozo, kicks Marji out of her house and sends her to a convent. Marji slowly acclimates to the western culture by celebrating Christmas and attending a holiday mass. However, Marji cannot strip her Iranian identity entirely. She gets into an argument at school and insults nuns by calling them ex-prostitutes. One of the nuns labels Marji ignorant and expels her from school.
No longer enrolled in university, Marji becomes confused and wayward. She starts living with a friend from school named Julie, and Julie’s mother. Marji suffers even greater culture shock when overhearing Julie speak about casual sexual encounters that are strictly forbidden and even punishable in Iran. As time passes, Marji forgoes her Iranian culture and fundamentally alters her outlook on life. Instead of living under an oppressive veil, Marji begins smoking cigarettes, altering her appearance, wearing makeup, cursing, moving around from place to place, dating strange men, and abusing drugs. After 19 months, Marji’s mother Taji visits and fails to recognize Marji. When Taji leaves, Marji eventually takes up residence with Dr. Frau Heller, but the two have a volatile relationship. Most of Marji’s relationships prove to be unstable, which forces her to seek solace in additional drug abuse. Dr. Heller accuses Marji of pilfering a jewelry-brooch and a huge fight ensues. Marji departs from Dr. Heller’s home and becomes homeless for the next three months. As Marji spirals deeper down a self-destructive path, she remembers Zozo owes Taji money. While out to collect the money, Marji contacts her parents and asks them to arrange for her return to Iran. Following a four year stint in Vienna, Marji returns to Iran in 1988 a drastically changed person.
While at the airport, Marji realizes just how different the west is from the east. She witnesses the celebration of political martyrs, rebels, and the commemorated dead in large murals, street-signs, and slogans posted everywhere in public. Back at home, Marji immediately cleans her room and ponders all that transpired in Vienna. Marji’s father, Ebi, explains the atrocities of war between Iran and Iraq that took place in Marji’s absence. They speak through the night about all the things that took place in Iran while Marji was away. When hearing of the harsh conditions her parents endured while she was gone, Marji decides to detail her experiences in Vienna. But the reminiscence makes Marji severely depressed. Marji tries to commit suicide twice. Firstly, she drinks a bottle of vodka and slits her wrists. Secondly, she imbibes a handful of pills. Marji views her survival as a good omen and begins rehabilitating her life by getting a job and focusing on her physical health. Soon, Marjane meets a man named Reza, who is a fellow painter. After dating for a few years, Reza proposes marriage to Marji in 1991. After deliberation, Marji accepts. Taji extols Marji that she has married too young and will regret living life as a terminally trapped wife.
Three years later, in 1994, Marji confesses to her friend Farnaz that she is no longer in love with Reza and wishes to divorce. After much deliberation, Marji ultimately decides to leave Reza, who is unhappy about the situation. Marji approaches her parents and informs them of her plans to leave Reza. Marji’s parents express how proud they are of Marji for making a tough decision. Her parents advise Marji to leave Iran for good and start a better life back in Europe. Toward the end of 1994, Marji decides to move back to Europe. Before departing, Marji visits the countryside surrounding Tehran. She also pays a visit to her grandfather’s grave in the Caspian Sea, as well as the prison where her activist uncle, Anoosh, is entombed. In the fall of 1994, Marji and her parents say their final goodbyes at the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran. In the end, Marji travels to Paris, France to begin life anew.Persepolis
, named after the ancient capital of The Persian Empire, has been translated to several languages. As of 2018, the graphic novel has sold more than two million copies. In addition to the Persepolis
series, Satrapi’s work includes Embroideries
, Chicken with Plums
, Monsters Are Afraid of the Moon
, and The Sigh
. Satrapi currently lives in Paris.