He grew up during the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. Today, conflicted artist Marjane Satrapi feels her memory is “more accurate than ever.”


Written by the author Leah Dolan, CNN

Iranian-French artist Marjane Satrapi was 10 years old when wearing the veil became compulsory, attending a non-religious, French-language school in Tehran. Previously, boys and girls were taught together, but soon she was also separated from her male friends in the name of the cultural revolution promoted by the revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini.

Women’s rights were curtailed almost immediately after 1979: overnight, they lost the right to file for divorce and the right to retain custody of a child. A public dress code was introduced mandating the veil, while the age of marriage for girls was lowered from 18 to 9. Confused, frustrated, and yet still children, Satrapi remembers that she and her female classmates would remove their veils and tie them together to make a rope during recess. How this scene opens is “Persepolis” (2000) — Satrapi’s graphic novel memoir that traces the historical installation of the Islamic republic through the complex prism of childhood.

The work won the 2001 Angoulême Coup de Coeur, France’s national comics award, and was turned into a feature film that won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2007. This week, the first 44 pages of Satrapi’s original manuscript will be auctioned. 44 separate sales – at Sotheby’s London.

The first 44 pages of the work will be available for purchase. Credit: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

There are 450 major works from South Asia, Islam and the Middle East this week as part of Sotheby’s ‘Middle East Week’, with ‘Persepolis’ on sale on 25 October. The auction series comes at a time when the eyes of the world are on. On Iran, as the country enters its sixth week of protests and unrest following the death of Masha Amini — the 22-year-old died after officials in Tehran took her to a “re-education center” for allegedly not wearing a hijab. properly

If Satrapi had been able to foresee the circumstances, he “would never have put it up for auction,” he told CNN in a phone interview before the event. “Otherwise I would be a very cynical person. (Preparation for this) has been in sales for more than six months.”

The auction house estimates each “Persepolis” page at between £4,000 and £6,000, or roughly $4,500 to $6,700. Satrapi intends to use the proceeds to finance a yet-to-be-specified new film project (“it changes every day,” he explains). He believes that selling the manuscript — which has been stored in his closet for the past 20 years — will be cathartic. “I felt like a monster in my closet,” she said. “He had to go.”

Upon closer inspection, buyers can see reworked drawings and altered panels in the manuscript.

Upon closer inspection, buyers can see reworked drawings and altered panels in the manuscript. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

However, even though the graphic novel is more than two decades old, it remains very relevant. Written from the perspective of Marji, Satrapi’s childhood self, “Persepolis” deals with coming of age under a dictatorship. From participating in demonstrations against religious extremism and secretive prohibition parties to mourning the death of her uncle Anoosh, executed for “spying”, the personal becomes political as Marji’s formative years are entwined with the Islamic revolution.

On the ground in Iran today, the average age of protesters arrested for demonstrating is 15 years old. Many 16-year-olds have also been killed by Iranian security forces. For Satrapi, “Persepolis” was a kind of “testimony” both to what happened during the Pahlavi dynasty, the Iranian kings and queens who ruled for more than half a century, as well as to the years of beauty and humanity of his country. before. “When I came to France, people had a (misinformed) idea about what Iran was,” he said. “(They thought) Iran was a country that existed since 1979, but it’s not true. It’s a country with 4,000 years of history. It wasn’t born yesterday, but people forgot that. So (“Persepolis”) was really. the answer to that. But sure I thought it would become obsolete after a few years.”

For Satrapi, the parallels between life in Iran more than 40 years ago and the tumultuous events unfolding today are bittersweet. “It’s a mixture of joy and sadness. Sadness, again, because we have to lose our children. And joy because the culture has changed,” he told CNN. “This is the first feminist movement I know of in the world, where women bring men (to protest). They are behind these girls, all united. It is truly a movement for human rights. Become a global youth movement against archaism, of democracy against dictatorship.”

Image above: Marjane Satrapi at the 15th Zurich Film Festival 2019.