Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Horse | Summary



Armelle and Julie leave Vienna, so Marjane finds a temporary room in a Wohngemeinschaft, or communal apartment. She likes living there a lot—her eight male roommates are all very nice, and she has a whole room to herself. Her mother arrives for a visit just a month or two after she moves in. It's the first time Marjane and Taji see each other since Marjane left Iran 19 months earlier. Taji is surprised at how much Marjane has grown, and Marjane is surprised by how old Taji seems.

Marjane is relieved to once again talk to someone who understands Persian culture, and she and her mother spend hours talking about their family and the war. They aren't completely honest with one another, however. Taji lies about jewelry she may have pawned for money and claims to like Marjane's cooking, while Marjane conceals the loneliness she feels in Austria. Taji emphasizes the need for Marjane to do the best she can in life, even if she ends up a cabaret dancer.

Taji takes care of Marjane during her 27 days in Austria, cooking, soothing her to sleep, and sketching plans for new outfits. She even finds her daughter a more permanent residence with Dr. Heller, whom she and Marjane agree looks like a horse. Before she departs for Iran Taji makes Marjane promise not to insult Dr. Heller. Marjane promises. She's sad, but even sadder is the fact she's also "get[ting] used to separations." Their visit, while all too brief, is enough to sustain Marjane for several more months.


A lot has changed since Marjane last saw Taji, but mother and daughter keep their conversations fairly neutral. Though she is surprised by Marjane's living arrangements, Taji doesn't make a big deal about it, and although Marjane knows her mother would never leave the country without her precious necklace, she doesn't press the issue. Arguments and discussions they would have had in the past are neatly sidestepped to make room for good memories. They don't have enough time together to wallow in their own failings.

Like Marjane, Taji is coming to understand the negative light in which the West views Iran and its people. She remembers what traveling through Europe used to be like—"They rolled out the red carpet," she says. Now she is treated like a suspected terrorist just because of her country of origin. Marjane's Uncle Massoud is experiencing the same thing in Germany. "He was somebody" in Iran, but in his new country he feels worthless. "It's difficult to start over at zero," she says. This isn't news to Marjane—she has endured all of this and more in Austria—but it's good to be with someone who understands. For the first time in a long time, Marjane feels understood.

Marjane is pretty sure her mother comprehends how lonely she is in Austria and just chooses to ignore it. Taji isn't being callous or unkind. She needs Marjane to stay strong. If Marjane crumbles and admits her unhappiness aloud, Taji will have to decide whether to bring her home or make her stay against her will. Taji and Ebi didn't send Marjane to Austria to be happy—they sent her to be safe. To do so, they need to tell themselves she's doing great on her own in a new culture, even if it's a lie. Marjane's unhappiness isn't a secret, but it needs to remain unspoken.

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