Born in Rasht, Iran, in 1969, Marjane Satrapi is a comics artist, filmmaker, children’s author and illustrator. She rose to prominence with the publication of her autographical comic, Persepolis. Originally published by the French comics house L’Association between 2000 and 2003 in four volumes, Persepolis was first translated into English (as Persepolis and Persepolis 2 in 2003 and 2004, respectively), and is now available in a single tome.

Growing up in Tehran, Satrapi was sent to study in Vienna in 1983 where she remained until her return to Tehran in 1989. Here, she studied in the School of Fine at the Islamic Azad University. Satrapi emigrated to France in 1998, studying in Strasbourg at the  École supériure des arts décoratifs, before moving to Paris.

Mentored by David Beauchard, the founder of the French publishing house L’Association comic, and author of Epileptic (2005 [1996-2003]), Satrapi produced Persepolis. A work written for “non-Iranians” that sets the author’s youth and adolescence against the backdrop of contemporary Iranian history, Persepolis received widespread acclaim, winning the Angoulême Coup de Coeur Award at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 2001. A “autographic” memoir, Persepolis recounts the devastating impacts of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and Iran-Iraq war on the author’s life, as well as for Iranian society at large. A dramatic, playful, and humorous narrative, Persepolis is significant for the way that it educates its audience on the differences between image and deeper truths, particularly relating to life in the Middle East.

Satrapi’s other comics include Embroderies [Broderies] (2005) and Chicken with Plums [Poulet aux Prunes] (2006/2004). She has worked as an illustrator on the children’s book, Monsters are Afraid of the Moon (2006), and The Sigh (2011).

Satrapi’s autographics explore such themes include loss, difference, and persistence in the wake of traumatic events such as war and revolution. Satrapi’s “simple” and clean drawing style belies the stylistic rigour of her training as a visual artist. Her style incorporates influences from German Expressionist cinema (such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis [1927], and Nosferatu by F. W. Murnau [1922]), as well as the structural methods used in Persian miniatures.

Persepolis was adapted into a feature-length film in 2007 directed by Vincent Paronnaud and Satrapi, winning the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival in the same year, and nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2008 Academy Awards. Chicken with Plums was produced as a live action film in 2011, winning Best Director for Satrapi and Paronnaud at the Noor Iranian Film Festival. In 2015, Satrapi directed The Voices, a dark comedy about a serial killer.

Satrapi’s work as a comics artist is perhaps best distinguished by her strong authorial voice and striking drawing style.

–Golnar Nabizadeh

Suggested Reading:

  • B., David. Epileptic. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004.
  • Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007.
    • Embroderies. New York: Pantheon Books, 2005.
    • Chicken with Plums. New York: Pantheon Books, 2006.
    • The Sigh. Los Angeles: Archaia, 2011.