chapter  13
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and the overarching problematic of totalitarianism and democracy in postrevolutionary Iran
Pages 15

Persepolis, the 2000-2003 graphic autobiography by Marjane Satrapi (which was made into an animation in 2007), depicts a young life constantly and radically destabilised by political events and ideological (religious) restrictions. Its compelling story in words and pictures, with which we cannot help but to identify, obliges the literary critic to distance him-or herself temporarily, so as to reflect on what it achieves and go beyond the idea that the work merely mirrors, for the West, the circumstances of Iranian lives. While I do not question the need to check factual accuracy in any autobiography in order to gain a certain access to social facts, I do not regard it as necessary for my present enquiry about the kind of political truth that Persepolis seeks to communicate-for which the subjective viewpoint on the facts is not a distortion of truth, but the condition of truth. If we are to seek a truth in Persepolis, we must let go of our close identification with the narrative line. Certain concepts borrowed from Claude Lefort’s essays on democracy may help me to achieve some distance.1 If my reading can then point toward a political dimension of the subjective storytelling whose truth differs from either Western readers’ impressions or official Iranian accusations, I hope that this discussion will suggest, through the particular instance of Persepolis, the relevance and importance of literary studies for shedding light on the political character of the issue of human rights.