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Persepolis and Collective Memory

 Persepolis is a graphic novel that is written by Marjane Satrapi. This graphic novel tells the Iranian Revolution through the eyes of a girl, which also contains Marjane's life in Iran and Europe.  The Iranian Islamic revolution is deeply affecting her life. The Iran-Iraq war that followed the revolution is disrupting her psychology. She then abandons her family and homeland to travel to Europe. However, in Europe, she encounters with many problems. So, she can't fully adapt to Europe. Then she decides to return to her country, yet her country has also changed a lot. She cannot adapt to Iran. Namely, she can't feel like she belongs anywhere.  Later in his life, she decides to write Persepolis. While doing this, she chooses the graphic novel technique instead of writing an ordinary novel. She says that “drawings, with their abstract quality, emphasize the universal. It doesn't matter who, a dictatorship is a dictatorship, whether in Chile, in China, in Iran, or anywhere else, it's the same. The drawing has enough of an abstract quality to make you consider that it could happen anywhere.” (Kosmidou, Corbin, 2015, 54)

Also, one of Satrap's purposes for writing this work was to be the voice of the Iranian people because news about Iran in Europe was often euro-centric. Some Europeans who read this graphic novel realized that the Iranians are a different race from the Arabs. In their eyes, all middle eastern peoples are the same. Besides, in this paper, the relationship of Persepolis to collective memory will be examined. The reason why Persepolis was chosen because it is a graphic novel, so it has benefited from the power of images and pictures. Also, it has been written by being inspired by the facts, like a historical novel.

 Furthermore, According to Halbwachs, collective memory is different than formal history. Formal history usually includes the most notable events in the past and history studies look at the past holistically. Namely, they focus on structure. Perspectives, on the other hand, are more essential in collective memory. The same incident can be interpreted differently by people. Also, collective memory is alive. It is constantly changing. Thus, Persepolis is a collective memory of the Iranian people. In the book, while the revolution is taking place, most of society supports the revolution. According to the people, the revolution is in their favor.

However, Iran will not be a good country after the shah was overthrown. A more ruthless administration is formed. The image of revolution in people's minds is no longer good either. In other words, while the collective memories of the Iranian people about the revolution were positive at first, they became negative over time because the collective memory lives. Also, Bardenstein divides collective memory into three parts. One of them is " as a response to and a symptom of a rupture, a lack, an absence." (Bardenstein, 2006, 148)

This kind of collective memory is associated with wars, conflicts, and disasters. This collective memory is used as an anti-forgetting device. One of the purposes of Marjane Satrapi was to inform the Iranians living in the west. These Iranians left the country quickly after the revolution. Since they have never been to their countries and have moved away from Iranian culture. Thus, they have started to forget Iran gradually. Thanks to this book, she tried to remind them of Iran and the revolution. The Iranian living in France read her book said: "It refreshed my memories of revolution and war, memories that I thought were gone. I have to come to realize that every life is a novel, but not many people can read it, and even fewer people can write their own. Marjane has done for this for a whole generation."(Malek, 2006, 375)

 Moreover, Marjane Satrapi is unable to adapt to life in Europe and returns to Iran. When she comes to Iran, she sees that everything has changed a lot. Street and avenue names especially surprised her. The names of the soldiers who were martyred in the Iran-Iraq War are given to the streets and boulevards. While seeing this, Marjane was frightened. She says that “walking the streets was like walking in a graveyard.” (Satrapi, 2017, 262) The dead were all over him, which frightened her terribly.

The new Iranian government changed the names of streets and avenues because it is building a new Iran. Since they founded a new country, they needed myths and legends. Using these myths and legends, it wanted to change the collective memory of the people. The government has drastically changed the collective memory of the people through the soldiers who died in the Iran-Iraq war. Dozens of ceremonies are held about martyrs. They also made propaganda through them. For example, some officials say that “To be a martyr is to inject blood into the veins of society”. (Satrapi,2017, 222) Hence, thus it greatly changes the collective memory of the people.

Another remarkable scene is the dialogue between uncle Anoush and Marjane. Anoush is an intellectual Iranian who was educated in Moscow. The Shah regime puts him in prison because he sees him as a threat. However, after the revolution, he gets out of prison and goes to Marjane and her family. Anoush tells Marjane about important events in the history of Iran and what happened during these events. In other words, he tells about the events in the collective memory of Iran in general and his own experiences. After finishing his speech, he says that “you may not understand these things now, but you will understand later, and do not forget them.” (Satrapi, 2017, 58)

Namely, it is quite significant to remember collective memory. These memories can be painful but if people forget them, these painful events can happen again. For example, Turkish people forgot the 1934 Thrace pogroms, so they did not want to remember them. Then the events of 6-7 September occurred. These two programs are similar to each other. If one was remembered, the other would not exist.

 Finally, this graphic novel is a healing project for Marjane. Marjane doesn't want to remember the revolution days of Iran. Especially the Iran-Iraq War affected him deeply. That's why he always wanted to forget the past. However, as she gets older, she understands these events better. Forgetting the past does not change anything. Even people have to remember the past. Both the good days and the bad days of the past should be in people’s memories. Therefore, she wrote Persepolis. Both to face the past and for Iranians living abroad not to forget their own past. Besides, she believes that one day Iran will change. Iran is an ancient civilization of thousands of years and this civilization will one day be reborn.                                             

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Tags: #Iran #MiddleEast #Revolution #Turkey #Memory #GraphicNovel #Movie


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