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lrperry's picture

Doing Justice...

I was struck immediately by the form and content of the introduction Satrapi gives her graphic novel. Written in 2002, Satrapi provides not only a history lesson but an autobiographical lesson as well. That she opens by describing the formation of the country of Iran, from its very first settlers to when it first became a nation, situates her novel in the historical discourse. Her writing style and tone in these first paragraphs is dry and factual – it signifies to us that these are facts, that we are receiving truth. When she then tells us that she herself is an Iranian who lived half her in life Iran, it becomes not solely than factual truth, but personal truth. It is not just something that anyone could read in the history book – she knows, because she was there. It’s somehow different (more?) than truth, because it’s her own experience. As soon as Satrapi shares this autobiographical detail with us, the tone of her introduction shifts considerably. It’s not history anymore, but an emotional description of current injustices and tragedies. Her final line, “One can forgive but one should never forget”, suggests that the following graphic novel will serve the purpose of remembering. It acts as memory, as a record of her life lived, and the lives of her fellow Iranians. This is why her perspective is so important, and why the tone of her introduction shifts so dramatically in that last paragraph. What she wants is not for the history books to record the facts of these invasions (although that is important as well), but rather for the individual people who participated in these historical events to be recorded as well. But how to record a life? How to record the lives of hundreds of your countrymen and women whom you’ve never met? It reminds me of Judith Butler’s discussion of “doing justice” to someone… Satrapi’s language in this introduction suggests that that’s what her project is in this graphic novel: to do justice.

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