Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | Moscow | Summary

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Summary

Marjane's disappointment that her father isn't a hero is tempered by her heroic uncle, Anoosh, who was in prison for almost all Marjane's life. He visits Marjane's family upon his release, and Marjane is so smitten with him she begs him to spend the night. He does and tells her his story.

When Anoosh was 18, his Uncle Fereydoon became the minister of justice of the Iranian province Azerbaijan, which he and his friends had recently proclaimed independent from Iran. Like his uncle, Anoosh believed all people were "equal in the eyes of the law." Anoosh's father, however, was still faithful to the shah. He thought Anoosh was a traitor. Anoosh went to Azerbaijan and became his uncle's secretary. One night Anoosh dreamt of "dead people, blood." The next morning he woke to find the shah's soldiers surrounding his uncle's home. Fereydoon was arrested and eventually killed, but Anoosh escaped. He traveled for days in the cold and the snow to reach his parents' house. He was near death when he arrived. His father forgave him, but Anoosh couldn't stay long. The shah's soldiers were looking for him. He swam across the Aras River and into the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union). He studied in Moscow, where he earned a doctorate in Marxism-Leninism, and married a Russian woman. Though they had two daughters together, they got divorced. Lonely, Anoosh returned to Iran in disguise. He was eventually captured and put into prison for nine years. He was tortured, though he says his ex-wife put him through worse. "I tell you all this because it's important that you know ... Our family memory must not be lost," he says to Marjane. Marjane promises never to forget. Anoosh tucks her into bed and gives her a swan made of bread.

Analysis

The Azerbaijan of which Uncle Anoosh speaks is a province in northern Iran, not to be confused with the country of the same name on the other side of Iran's northern border. Ownership of this part of Iran has changed hands numerous times over the years. Azerbaijan belonged to Iran when the 20th century began but was in the hands of the Turks during World War I. The Soviet Union then claimed it during World War II. It is shortly after World War II that Uncle Fereydoon and his friends come into the picture. Avowed communists, their declaration of Azerbaijan's independence was backed by the Soviet Union. Independence from Iran lasted only a year—in 1946 Iranian forces invaded and reclaimed the land. That's when Fereydoon was killed and Anoosh went back home.

Anoosh and Fereydoon's story is important for a few reasons. First, it is evidence of the rebellious streak that runs through the paternal side of Marjane's family. Second, it establishes Anoosh as a communist. In "The Party," Ramin tells Marjane his father killed only communists, which implies communists are inherently bad. But Anoosh is a communist, and Marjane adores him. Through him, she begins to understand that people's goodness or appeal cannot necessarily be determined by their political point of view. Before, she had seen things as black or white; now, she is beginning to also see some shades of gray.

The third and most important aspect of Anoosh's recollections is his insistence that Marjane remember them. He wants future generations to understand both sides of Iran's political history, not just the parts deemed appropriate by the ruling government. His experiences, and those of his family, are reminders of the importance of freedom and the lengths one should be willing to go to achieve it. Satrapi goes above and beyond her childhood promise. Through Persepolis, she ensures millions of people around the world become familiar with the stories of Anoosh and the rest of her loved ones. Her books are their legacy.

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